Michigan man who helped inmates game prison drug program gets 6 years

A Michigan man was sentenced to six years in prison Friday for leading a six-year scheme that coached federal inmates with no addiction problems on how to lie their way into a drug and alcohol treatment program that can shave up to a year off prisoners’ sentences.

Tony Pham, 52, of Grand Rapids, appeared before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer in New Haven, Connecticut. He pleaded guilty two years ago to fraud charges.

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The case shone some light on the unregulated world of prison consulting, in which some ex-convicts and former prison employees charge thousands of dollars for their inside knowledge to help people prepare for life behind bars. Federal prosecutors have long suspected abuses in the treatment program, which has enrolled a deep list of high-profile convicts.

Prosecutors said Pham’s Michigan-based RDAP Law Consultants charged clients who did not have drug or alcohol problems for tips on how to get into the federal Bureau of Prisons’ Residential Drug Abuse Program. Those included telling them to show up drunk when reporting to prison and how to fake withdrawal symptoms when they were behind bars.