But Houser had a few words of his own during his sentencing hearing, telling Murphy he didn’t break any laws and that most of the testimony heard during his month long bench trial was false.
Murphy convicted Houser on April 2. In addition to the health care fraud conspiracy count, Houser was also convicted of eight counts of failing to pay more than $800,000 in his nursing home employees’ payroll taxes to the IRS, and failing to file personal income tax returns in 2004 and 2005.
After he is released from prison, Houser will be required to serve three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $6,742,807.88 in restitution to Medicaid and Medicare, and $872,515 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
Houser was escorted out of the courtroom by federal marshals and taken to the Polk County Jail were he will await an assignment in the federal prison system.
During the sentencing hearing, Murphy said if he had heard such testimony in a civil case involving a prison, “the court would have closed the prison for being in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” That amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment of prisoners.
Houser told Murphy that most of the testimony he heard was false.
“All this stuff about not feeding people and starving people is a blatant lie,” Houser said before he was sentenced. “It did not happen.”
Houser owned three nursing homes as part of Forum Healthcare Group — one on Moran Lake Road in Rome, one on Three Mile Road near Mount Berry Square mall in Rome, and the third in Brunswick known as Wildwood.
After being accused by federal prosecutor Glenn Baker of not being remorseful, Houser said he did have some remorse.
“I am sorry that I spent any money I did on property.” Houser later stated, “I am sorry I got into a financial squeeze and had problems.”
The Rev. Terrell Shields, Houser’s pastor, speaking in defense of Houser, said he was also speaking “on behalf of all black churches, pastors and citizens.”
He told Murphy that an owner cannot be held responsible for everything his employees do and reminded him that Houser was in his 60s with two small children.
“It would be sinful to take their father away from them,” Shields said.
Murphy told Houser the sentencing was “a tragedy for the community here and for your family.”
“I do so reluctantly but I do so because you have six pages in the presentencing report of petty violations of financial crimes against people,” Murphy said. “There were people said you told them that you did not intend to pay them.”
Houser’s wife, Rhonda Houser, who was indicted with him in April 2010, was in the courtroom but did not speak.
She pleaded guilty to misprision of the felony of health care fraud in December 2011. Her sentencing date has not been scheduled.