Former Kentucky state lawmaker gets 2-year prison sentence for fraud, money laundering

Matt Goins

Former Kentucky State Rep. Robert Goforth has been sentenced to two years and one month in federal prison for health care fraud and money laundering.

U.S. District Judge Robert Wier imposed the sentence Monday at a federal courthouse in Laurel County. Goforth will have to pay $2.7 million in restitution for the fraud and $10,000 in fines. As of Monday, he had paid more than $1 million in restitution, according to court testimony. He’ll also have two years of supervised release after he’s out of prison.

Goforth pleaded guilty in May 2022, admitting that a pharmacy he owned in Clay County billed insurance programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, for prescriptions that customers didn’t pick up, according to court records.

The medication could then be put back on the shelf and sold again. The pharmacy multiplied profits by buying a dose of medicine once and then “effectively selling it multiple times,” according to Goforth’s plea agreement.

Wier said in court Monday that he believed the sentence was fair and just. Wier said it should serve as a deterrent to others in the health care system that attempt to abuse the trust of others.

“This is the path to make things right, and to pay your debt,” Wier said. “You should hold your head high, and know your life is not characterized by this bad decision. It is part of it, but there are a lot of things you have left to say. You made a bad decision, you will pay for that decision. There is a lot left to be done in terms of the mark you will leave on the world.”

Goforth: ‘I am ashamed.’

In a tearful statement before the sentence was determined, Goforth told Wier he was ashamed of what he had done, and offered a public apology to his victims and his family, who were present in the courtroom.

“I am ashamed of myself,” he said. “I tried to be a good role model, and all of the work I did will be tainted forever by the decisions I made to commit these crimes.”

He said he hoped this experience would be an example and learning lesson for his children that bad decisions would be met with consequences.

“The bad decisions do not define someone,” he said. “But how you make amends to the victims and remedy the situation does.”

Goforth’s attorney argued for lesser sentence

Goforth’s attorney, Willis Coffey, asked the judge to take into account several factors which he believed warranted Goforth a reduced sentence of less than two years.

Coffey said Goforth faced childhood trauma and overcame both physical and mental abuse that took place. He said Goforth was homeless at the age of 14, and only received school credit up until the eighth grade. Despite this, he went on to get his GED at 17, go to college, serve in the U.S. Army, get his pharmacy doctorate, start his business and run successfully for state representative.

Coffey also brought up extensive charity work and donations made by Goforth, which the judge said he was not inclined to include as mitigation in the sentencing due to the fact Goforth was independently wealthy, and could have the opportunity to do that more than others. In addition, the judge made note that Goforth had “improperly lined his pockets” with “tainted assets.”

Coffey also asked the judge to take into account that Goforth’s family would “suffer greatly” in his absence while incarcerated — including his 8-year-old sons and his disabled brother.

Wier again said this was not something that inclined him to a reduced sentence, because those dependents where there when he chose to willingly take part in crimes.

Coffey cited two more reasons, including his willingness and quickness to repay his multi-million-dollar restitution, as well as his plans after he gets out of jail.

According to his attorney, because his client had to hand over his pharmacy license, he can no longer practice in medicine. Goforth plans to become a CDL driver and open his own business after his release.

‘There will be consequences’ for health care fraud

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Smith asked that the judge impose what he thought was a fair sentence, but also take into account a punishment that would not only hold Goforth accountable, but deter other health care providers from making the same choices.

He said every American is impacted by the United States healthcare system, and that they put trust into those caregivers to help them in good faith. Smith said Goforth betrayed that trust.

“I ask that you impose a sentence that will show other providers when they have the incentive to cheat or make up for margins — don’t — because there will be consequences,” Smith said.

He made note to the judge that Goforth had been fully cooperative since accepting his plea deal.

Goforth will serve time for both federal, state offenses

This was the second court case that Goforth was sentenced in this year. He previously faced charges in state court of first-degree strangulation and fourth-degree assault stemming from an incident that involved his wife, according to court records.

Goforth’s wife told police that Robert Goforth tried “to hog tie” her during a domestic dispute, according to court records. She said he grabbed an ethernet cable from a kitchen drawer, wrapped it around her neck while she was face down on the floor, and strangled her to the point she was having trouble breathing, according to the citation.

Goforth’s wife later said she didn’t want to pursue prosecution against him. Goforth pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault on July 14. The strangulation charge was dismissed.

Under the plea deal, Judge Michael Caperton sentenced Goforth to 59 days in jail to be served at the same time as his sentence in federal court.

Goforth is ordered to report because to the U.S. Marshall’s office on November 18 to begin his prison sentence. The judge suggested he serve his sentence “close to home” at the Federal Prison Camp in Manchester, or Ashland.

Goforth, a Republican, represented Jackson County and parts of Laurel and Madison counties in the state House before resigning in August 2021. Goforth also ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for governor in 2019. His running mate that year was Michael Hogan, the longtime county attorney in Lawrence County.

Reporter Bill Estep contributed to this story.