Ben Carson has called for harsh criminal penalties for health care fraud, but the Republican presidential candidate and his wife also have kept millions invested with a close friend who admitted defrauding insurance companies, according to an Associated Press review.
Pittsburgh dentist Alfonso A. Costa pleaded guilty to a felony count of health care fraud after an FBI probe into his oral surgery practice found he had charged for procedures he never performed, according to court records.
Though the crime carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison, Costa was sentenced to house arrest and probation after Carson helped petition a federal judge on behalf of the man he described as "one my closest, if not my very closest friend."
That's different from the position Carson later took as he prepared to launch his presidential campaign. In his 2013 political treatise, "America the Beautiful," Carson wrote that anyone found guilty of health care fraud should face the "Saudi Arabian Solution."
"Why don't people steal very often in Saudi Arabia?" asked Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. "Obviously because the punishment is the amputation of one or more fingers. I would not advocate chopping off people's limbs, but there would be some very stiff penalties for this kind of fraud, such as loss of one's medical license for life, no less than 10 years in prison and loss of all of one's personal possessions."