Trump pardoned him; now Ga. man sues state, insurer for half-million

John Duncan Fordham was convicted of health care fraud and paid hundreds of thousands in restitution. He now wants Georgia to pay him back — plus interest.

In his final days in the White House, then-President Donald Trump pardoned dozens of people, including former Augusta pharmacist John Duncan Fordham who was convicted of defrauding the state of Georgia and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution.

Fordham spent four years in prison after his 2005 health care fraud conviction, and his assets were seized and liquidated to help make whole the state and a private insurance company he had defrauded. At the time of his January 2021 pardon, Fordham had made good on $531,000 in restitution payments.

And while the pardon erased the nearly half million he and his company still owed, that wasn’t good enough for Fordham. On Thursday, he took the unusual step of suing the state and the insurance company to pay him the hundreds of thousands he had already paid in restitution, claiming that Trump’s pardon had entitled him to recover the funds — plus interest.

“I’m not sure that I’ve heard of a case of reimbursement,” said Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt, an expert on presidential pardons.

Fordham was convicted of taking part in a fraud scheme in which former state Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, steered a lucrative contract with the East Georgia Community Mental Health Center to Fordham, in exchange for generous kick backs to the former lawmaker. Williams was also convicted and sentenced to federal prison.

Credit: The Augusta Chronicle-USA TODAY NETWORK

Credit: The Augusta Chronicle-USA TODAY NETWORK

Three others were also implicated in connection with the scheme, including former Atlanta Braves pitcher Rick Camp and lobbyist Chad Long, the grandson of former Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy, according to court documents.

In addition to the nearly $500,000 that were seized following his conviction, Fordham had continued to make monthly payments totaling $46,000 until Trump’s pardon, the complaint says.

He paid roughly $259,000 to the Georgia Department of Administrative Services, an agency that provides financial services to state and local government entities and a defendant in Fordham’s suit. Fordham paid Great American Insurance Company, the other defendant in his suit, $272,000 in restitution, records show.

Kalt said that the presidential pardon cleared Fordham of responsibility to continue to pay restitution, but it seems unlikely that a federal court will agree that the pardon entitles him to claw back payments he had already made.

“It’s unclear, but it seems doubtful to me that he’ll be able to get the money back,” Kalt said.

Fordham’s attorney, Augusta-based John B. Long, did not respond to a request for comment. The state’s Department of Administrative Services and Great American Insurance Company did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit, either.

Fordham was one of several people who were granted a pardon in the waning days of Trump’s presidency, many of which were allies and loyalists of the former president including Paul Manafort and Roger J. Stone Jr.

The frantic pace of the pardons even created a lucrative cottage industry that enriched those in Trump’s circle who held his ear. Long wrote a letter to Trump a couple weeks after the 2020 election, requesting the pardon and arguing that his client should have never been charged, court records show.

“Mr. Fordham has been punished more than enough,” the letter said.

Fordham is not the only person connected to Georgia who received pardons from Trump during his presidency. In 2020, he pardoned Atlanta-based reality TV star and congressional candidate Angela Stanton-King, a vocal and ardent supporter of the former president. Stanton-King had been convicted on federal conspiracy charges for her role in a car theft ring in 2004.

Trump said in recent comments that if he runs for reelection and wins he will “very, very seriously” consider full pardons for the hundreds of people who have been charged for their involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.