- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2004

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Former Gov. Don Siegelman was indicted yesterday on federal charges he took part in a bid-rigging scheme involving a state program to help poor, pregnant women while he was in office.

His former chief of staff, Paul Hamrick, and a political backer, Dr. Phillip Bobo, also were indicted.

Mr. Siegelman, a Democrat, denied the charges and called them “Republican politics at its worst.”

The former governor served a single, four-year term before he was narrowly defeated for re-election in 2002 by Republican Bob Riley, who ran on a platform of ethics in government.

Mr. Siegelman and Mr. Hamrick were accused of moving $550,000 from the state education budget to the Alabama State Fire College, where Dr. Bobo was a director, so that Dr. Bobo could offer the money to a competitor not to seek a federally funded contract to serve pregnant women.

The indictment also described a network of unnamed co-conspirators — lobbyists, lawyers, Siegelman aides and others — who purportedly pressured state Medicaid officials to change rules and bid specifications to help Dr. Bobo’s company, Neighborhood Health Services.

Dr. Bobo’s company ultimately failed to win the contract. The company’s bid was more than $1 million higher than the only other bid, prosecutors said.

Mr. Siegelman was not accused of profiting from the plot. Prosecutors said Dr. Bobo had contributed to Mr. Siegelman’s gubernatorial bid and was raising money for Mr. Siegelman’s campaign to establish a state lottery.

“As the facts come out, I will be proven innocent,” Mr. Siegelman said.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, a Republican appointee, denied politics were involved.

“We don’t ever look to see if there is an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ behind anyone’s name,” she said.

Dr. Bobo, 59, Mr. Siegelman, 58, and Mr. Hamrick, 40, were charged with conspiracy and fraud. Dr. Bobo also was charged with witness-tampering, lying to the FBI and perjury.

The fraud counts carry the most serious penalties — up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Each of the other charges is punishable by up to five years and $250,000 in fines.

The charges stemmed from the same investigation that earlier led to charges against Dr. Bobo of committing fraud while trying to secure a contract for providing maternity services to Medicaid recipients.

Dr. Bobo was found guilty in 2001 of offering a competitor $800,000 to bow out of the bidding, but the conviction was thrown out on appeal.

The defendants’ attorneys will arrange with prosecutors for the men’s surrender.

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