WASHINGTON (AP/KDKA) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned 15 people, including Republican allies, a 2016 campaign official ensnared in the Russia probe and former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad.
Morningside native Dr. Alfonso Costa, who was convicted of health care fraud in 2007, was among those granted a full pardon by the president.
Costa practiced dentistry in Oakland and Murrysville and was charged with padding bills to Highmark and six other companies 50 times for $44,000 in dental work never done.
The White House says Costa pled guilty, took full responsibility, served two years of probation and paid nearly $300,000 in fines and institutions.
They say he’s devoted much of his adult life to community service, including serving on the board of the Pittsburgh Opera and doing work for children and the underprivileged.
According to the White House, his request for clemency was supported by Ben Carson, Pittsburgh Steelers legend Jerome Bettis and “numerous business associates, patients, and community leaders from Pittsburgh.”
The pardons also included former Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York.
Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse Trump to be president, was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison after admitting he helped his son and others dodge $800,000 in stock market losses when he learned that a drug trial by a small pharmaceutical company had failed.
Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds and spending the money on everything from outings with friends to his daughter’s birthday party.
Trump also announced a pardon for George Papadopoulos, his 2016 campaign adviser whose conversation unwittingly helped trigger the Russia investigation that shadowed Trump’s presidency for nearly two years.
By pardoning Papadopoulos, Trump once again took aim at special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of the investigation that yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates.
Last month, Trump pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and months earlier commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.
In the group announced Tuesday night were four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone.
Supporters of Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, the former contractors at Blackwater Worldwide, had lobbied for pardons, arguing that the men had been excessively punished in an investigation and prosecution they said was tainted by problems and withheld exculpatory evidence. All four were serving lengthy prison sentences.
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