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Monday, August 19, 2019

Orthodontist Indicted for Bribery and Fraud Scheme with Former Arkansas State Senator

An orthodontist who owned several businesses that operated orthodontic clinics in Arkansas was indicted for perpetrating a bribery and fraud scheme involving former Arkansas State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Duane "DAK" Kees for the Western District of Arkansas.

Benjamin Gray Burris, 47, of Windermere, Florida, was charged today in the Western District of Arkansas with 14 counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.  Burris’s arraignment will be scheduled at a later date.

As alleged in the indictment, beginning in or about February 2014, Burris and Hutchinson devised a scheme in which Burris hired and retained Hutchinson as an attorney and paid Hutchinson retainer payments in exchange in part for Hutchinson to take official action as an Arkansas legislator to benefit Burris and his orthodontic companies.  Between February 2014 and November 2016, Burris paid Hutchinson, through Hutchinson’s law firm, approximately $157,500 and provided Hutchinson with gifts including free orthodontic services for his family and the use of a private plane to travel to a college football game.  Hutchinson, in return, used his official position as a state senator to draft and file legislation to amend a law restricting dental practices that Burris wanted to change.  In addition, Hutchinson advised and influenced members of the Arkansas Department of Human Services to expedite the approval of Medicaid applications for physician employees of Burris’s clinics.

On June 25, 2019, Hutchinson, 45, of Little Rock, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery in the Eastern District of Arkansas, before U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker, for his role in this scheme.  Hutchinson’s sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

The charges and allegations contained in an indictment are merely accusations.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI’s Little Rock Field Office investigated the case.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Sean F. Mulryne and Marco A. Palmieri of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron Jennen and Ben Wulff of the Western District of Arkansas.

Updated November 6, 2019