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Baker turns back $$ from couple after Medfield fundraiser

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

By Matt Murphy

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker attended a fundraiser in Medfield on Sunday night co-hosted by the wife of a man indicted by his Democratic rival two years ago for Medicaid fraud.

Dennis Etzkorn, the owner of the Fall River adult foster care provider Gabriel Care, was indicted in April 2012 by a Bristol County grand jury for allegedly paying kickbacks to clients and caregivers for referrals of new clients who are MassHealth eligible to his company.

His wife Karen Etzkorn co-hosted a fundraiser for Baker’s campaign on Sunday night, according to an invitation obtained by the News Service.

Baker’s campaign said it was not aware of the case or Karen Etzkorn’s relation to Dennis Etzkorn prior to the event. Queried about the charges against Dennis Etzkorn, Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said the campaign would not deposit a check collected from the couple on Sunday, but would keep other contributions made during the event.

Buckley declined to say how much the Baker campaign raised at the fundraiser, which was held at AstraLuna, a craft distiller and distributor of vodkas and other spirits in Medfield where the Etzkorns live.

The fundraiser was co-hosted by Peter Biagetti, an attorney at Mintz Levin, Dover contractor Andrew McCabe, and Judith McDonough, the executive director of Edwina Martin House, a residential addiction rehabilitation facility for women in Brockton.

Since the start of the general election campaign in September, Baker has enjoyed a sizeable cash advantage over his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Both Baker and Coakley have been mixing small events like the fundraiser in Medfield with larger receptions such as the one hosted last Thursday for Baker when former Gov. Mitt Romney helped raise an additional $600,000 for the Baker campaign. Coakley had an event with former President Bill Clinton the same night that netted her about $200,000.

Coakley’s campaign declined to comment on Etzkorn’s involvement in the fundraiser for Baker.

Dennis Etzkorn pleaded not guilty in the spring of 2012 to charges that he and Gabriel Care program director Jennifer Nunes-Reid paid or offered to pay predetermined amounts of money to clients and caregivers for MassHealth eligible clients referred to their company for at-home care.

In a case publicized by her office in April 2012, Coakley alleged that for at least 44 clients illegally procured by kickbacks Etzkorn billed MassHealth for $1.2 million in care claims. The case is due back in court on Oct. 31 for a status hearing.

Karen Etzkorn does not show up in Office of Campaign and Political Finance filings, but Dennis Etzkorn is listed as giving $500 to Lowell Rep. David Nangle, a Democrat, and $200 to House Speaker Robert DeLeo in 2014. Etzkorn in previous years had also given to Reps. Carole Fiola and Alan Silvia, both of Fall River, and former Boston City Councilor Rob Consalvo. Etzkorn also gave $250 to Baker in 2010.

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