Robin Williams once spent a decade representing Augusta in the Georgia House of Representatives. Now he will spend the next 10 years in a federal prison cell for health care fraud, U.S. District Court Judge Dudley Bowen determined Thursday.
"It's a sad day for my family; it's a sad day for me, obviously; and it's a sad day for the city," said Mr. Williams, who also was ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution. "Mistakes were made. I admitted that."
Mr. Williams and four others were convicted in May of conspiring to loot the former Community Mental Health Center of East Central Georgia of more than $2 million. C. Michael Brockman, who once ran the center, was sentenced to six years and also ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution. Pharmacist Duncan Fordham was sentenced to 52 months, and lobbyist and former Atlanta Braves pitcher Rick Camp got 37 months. Lobbyist M. Chad Long, the grandson of former Speaker of the House Tom Murphy, was sentenced to 33 months. The three also must pay restitution.
Judge Bowen waived fines in light of the restitution and forfeitures already surrendered.
The men will remain free until they report to federal prison, although Mr. Williams will remain under electronic supervision.
The joint state-federal inquiry that led to the federal convictions followed an Augusta Chronicle investigation that discovered lucrative contracts at the center with companies that had ties to Mr. Williams, a longtime friend of the center's director, Mr. Brockman.
Prosecutors later proved that Mr. Williams would get the companies or lobbyists contracts at the center in return for hefty kickbacks. The center also paid huge bonuses to the companies, including $1 million to Mr. Fordham's pharmacy, Duncan Drugs. About $375,000 ended up in Mr. Williams' pockets.
While noting that Mr. Williams was an "engaging" personality who had done "many, many good deeds," Judge Bowen also said that "the odds are that had it not been for him and his persuasions and his intentions, he and the other four individuals would not be here today."
Martha Long, Mr. Long's mother, also blamed Mr. Williams for drawing her son in.
"I expected Robin to help me guide Chad and look after him," she said. "I didn't know Robin Williams after all. I know him now."
Mr. Camp also said, "I just trusted too many people. I guess that's what got me in trouble."
Mr. Williams said he "did bring the group together. I don't blame anybody for my situation except myself."
Mr. Long's mother made a tearful appeal for leniency because Mr. Murphy, a powerful leader of the Statehouse for decades, has been paralyzed by a stroke and is bed-ridden. Mr. Long is the only one who can reliably move him around without causing him pain, she said.
"Chad makes my dad's life as easy and comfortable as it can be at this time," she said.
Mr. Brockman, who was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, also asked for leniency because he needs to take care of his wife, who has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.
"Mr. Brockman's illness and that of his wife would present a compelling predicament to the coldest of hearts," Judge Bowen admitted. But Mr. Brockman knew of his illness before the trial and chose to proceed, so "he faces the consequences of those decisions and of the government's proof."
Mr. Fordham, whose supporters packed the courtroom, may have entered the scheme reluctantly but once in "he did so with enthusiasm," the judge said.
Mr. Fordham's punishment range increased recently with the discovery that he tried to transfer the ownership of Duncan Drugs, Judge Bowen noted. A magistrate judge also ordered Mr. Fordham jailed after hearing allegations that he engaged again in health-care fraud.
Judge Bowen put the drugstore in receivership to ensure that assets are protected for creditors. They include the government, which has a $500,000 forfeiture to collect.
Judge Bowen released Mr. Fordham from custody with additional restrictions on his activities, such as not working as a pharmacist.
And while Mr. Camp said he was misled, Judge Bowen said he should have known better.
"Even in Atlanta, honest money does not fall from trees like it was from Robin Williams," he said.
In fact, he said, they all bear responsibility.
"There were no mistakes in all of this," Judge Bowen said. "All of these men willfully, intentionally and voluntarily participated."
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226.
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