Tennessee Democrat charged in Medicare fraud

A former lawmaker already indicted on bribery allegations has been charged with taking more than $800,000 in consulting fees from contractors working for a state Medicare program, according to an indictment unsealed Monday.

Former state Sen. John Ford is accused of using his elected position to promote the interests of two contractors with TennCare. Ford served on three committees with authority over TennCare.

"Senator Ford had a duty to provide honest services to the people of Tennessee," U.S. Attorney Craig Morford said in a news conference. "The facts alleged in this indictment reveal an appalling willingness to violate that duty by using his public position for personal gain."

Ford’s home phone number is unlisted.

"Mr. Ford has done nothing wrong in relation to these charges," said his lawyer, Michael Scholl.

An initial court appearance was set for Tuesday.

Ford, a Memphis Democrat, resigned from the Legislature in 2005 after he was indicted on charges of taking $55,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as crooked businessmen in a sting dubbed the Tennessee Waltz. He has pleaded not guilty in that case and is set for trial in February.

The new indictment, alleging two counts of wire fraud and four counts of concealing material facts, was handed down last week by a grand jury in Nashville.

Conviction on the most serious of the new charges carries a maximum of 60 years in prison and fines of $1.5 million.

Ford’s brother Edmund Ford is a Memphis city councilman also charged with taking bribes. Another brother, Harold Ford Sr., is a former congressman and a sister, Ophelia Ford, is a state senator-elect.

Harold Ford Jr., John Ford’s nephew, last month lost his bid to become the first black U.S. senator elected in the South since Reconstruction.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press