Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson continues to sustain a business relationship with an oral surgeon, someone he’s described as one of his “closest friends,” who was convicted of a felony, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The AP reports that Alfonso A. Costa pleaded guilty to a felony count of health care fraud following a federal investigation into his private practice. The FBI discovered that, over the course of five years, he had charged more than 50 patients for procedures that he had not performed, which resulted in an over $40,000 loss to their insurance companies.
In Ben Carson’s 2011 book America the Beautiful, the AP notes, he advocates a harsh punishment for this crime, “such as loss of one’s medical license for life, no less than 10 years in prison, and loss of all of one’s personal possessions.”
However, during Costa’s 2008 sentence hearing, the AP writes, Carson testified on his friend’s behalf, helping him appeal for leniency. In his testimony Carson stated, “Next to my wife of 32 years, there is no one on this planet that I trust more than Al Costa.”
A sentence for this type of felony could result in up to 10 years in prison; Costa was sentenced to one year of house arrest with three years of probation to follow. During his sentence, Costa was granted the right to travel to the coast of Italy to handle business at a resort that he owns there, according to his lawyer. His probation was then cut down by one year.
Carson continues to profit from investments that he and his wife have made through Costa, according to the AP, earning the presidential candidate between $200,000 and $2 million each year.
A representative from Ben Carson’s campaign offered this comment to Fortune from Carson: “Al Costa is my best friend. Al Costa is my very best friend. I know his heart. I am proud to call him my friend. I have always and will continue to stand by him. That is what real friends do!”
This story was updated to include comment from Ben Carson’s campaign.