Owner of California Company Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Bribe an Alabama Legislator
Montgomery, Ala. – On Friday, January 4, 2019, G. Ford Gilbert, 71, of Carmichael, California, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit bribery of a state official, announced United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr., Postal Inspector in Charge of the Houston Division Adrian Gonzalez, and Special Agent in Charge James Jewell of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Mobile Division.
According to court documents, when he committed his offense, Gilbert was the owner of a California-based company, Trina Health, LLC (Trina Health). At outpatient clinics, Trina Health provided a form of diabetes treatment known as the “Artificial Pancreas Treatment.” In 2014 and 2015, Trina Health and associated business entities opened three clinics in Alabama—one in Foley, one in Fairhope, and one in Hoover. Micky Ray Hammon, who, at the time, was the majority leader of the Alabama House of Representatives, was a part-owner of the Hoover clinic.
Shortly after the Foley and Fairhope clinics opened and just before the Hoover clinic began operations, the state’s largest health insurer informed Trina Health that it would not cover the treatments provided at these clinics. Throughout 2015 Gilbert tried unsuccessfully to persuade the health insurance company to reconsider. In early 2016, Gilbert developed a scheme to force the insurer to change its position.
Specifically, he came up with a plan to push a bill through the Alabama Legislature’s 2016 session, which, had it passed, would have required the health insurer to cover Trina Health’s Artificial Pancreas Treatments. Gilbert looked to Hammon to assist in the passage of the bill. Hammon, who by this point had sold his ownership interest in the Hoover clinic, informed Gilbert that it would create an appearance of impropriety for him to publicly support the legislation. However, Hammon was willing to use his influence in the House of Representatives to quietly generate support for Gilbert’s bill. To persuade Hammon to do this, in April 2016, Gilbert paid Hammon $2,000. Thereafter, Hammon arranged for various other legislators to speak in support of the Trina Health-supported legislation at a public hearing. Despite Hammon’s efforts, the bill did not advance out of committee.
Gilbert’s sentencing will be scheduled at some point in the coming months before United States District Judge Myron H. Thompson. At sentencing, he faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of not more than $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release.
“Mr. Gilbert thought that it would take only a small payment to turn the Alabama House of Representatives into a tool for solving his own business problems,” stated United States Attorney Franklin. “Fortunately, Gilbert was not successful in persuading the legislature to pass this tainted bill. Nevertheless, it is my hope that this case sends a strong message to business owners and special interest groups who might seek to obtain legislative assistance through improper means. My office will do whatever it takes to ensure that the citizens of this state are served by the state legislature they deserve—one committed to doing only the people’s work.”
Mr. Franklin added, “I wish to express my tremendous gratitude to the United States Postal Inspection Service for the superior work the postal inspectors put into this prosecution. This case would not have been possible without the Postal Inspection Service’s dogged investigation and steadfast commitment to ensuring that this conduct did not go unpunished. Thanks is also owed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI’s special agents provided crucial assistance in the investigation of this case.”
“Public trust in government is essential to our democracy,” stated Postal Inspector in Charge of the Houston Division Adrian Gonzalez. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has an extensive history of protecting the integrity of government and will vigorously investigate those attempting to undermine that trust and hold them accountable. This investigation was complex and multifaceted, and it underscores the reason we are committed to working to dismantle any and all public corruption schemes.”
“The FBI will continue to aggressively assist our state, local, and federal partners in the public corruption arena,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge James Jewell. “This type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
As noted, the United States Postal Inspection Service investigated the case with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross, Joshua Wendell, and Stephanie C. Billingslea are prosecuting the case.