ORLANDO, Fla. — An Orlando-area orthodontist has been accused by federal officials of a scheme involving an Arkansas state senator before he moved to Florida.
- Dr. Benjamin Gray Burris accused of paying politician for legislation
- Burris is accused in a bribery and fraud scheme
- FBI investigated link between Burris and state senator
Dr. Benjamin Gray Burris, 47, is accused of providing Arkansas State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson with such gifts as free orthodontic services and use of a private plane in exchange for Hutchinson filing legislation that Burris wanted to benefit his orthodontic companies, federal officials allege.
Federal officials charged Burris in the Western District of Arkansas with 14 counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. He was indicted Monday for perpetrating a bribery and fraud scheme involving Hutchinson.
The alleged scheme was hatched in February 2014. Burris hired and retained Hutchinson as an attorney and paid Hutchinson retainers partly in exchange for Hutchinson to take action as an Arkansas legislator to benefit Burris and his orthodontic companies, prosecutors allege.
Between February 2014 and November 2016, Burris paid Hutchinson, through Hutchinson’s law firm, about $157,500. Burris also provided free orthodontic services for Hutchinson’s family and the use of a private plane to travel to a college football game, prosecutors allege.
Hutchinson, who resigned as an Arkansas state senator on August 31, 2018, is the nephew of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
The former state senator pleaded guilty on June 25 to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery for his role in this alleged scheme with Burris, prosecutors said.
“In addition, Hutchinson advised and influenced members of the Arkansas Department of Human Services to expedite the approval of Medicaid applications for physician employees of Burris’s clinics,” federal officials said in a statement.
A message to Burris through his website was not immediately returned.
“Ben practiced in Arkansas for 13 years, sold Arkansas Dentistry in Braces in 2017 and now lives in Windermere, Florida with his wife Bridget and their two children,” the website said. “Ben maintains a small practice in Orlando and enjoys helping orthodontists achieve a mindset that is congruent with the new reality.”
Records show the couple paid $2.5 million for a five-bedroom, 7,736-square-foot lakefront house in Windermere in May 2017. Florida issued a license to Benjamin Burris to practice dentistry in this state in July 2017. He has no disciplinary actions pending in Florida.
His arraignment on the federal charges is scheduled for September 11 in the Western District of Arkansas.
The FBI’s Little Rock Field Office investigated the case.