Psych Crime Reporter

April 22, 2014

Alaska psychiatrist charged with $300K Medicaid fraud

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 2:59 pm

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Anchorage psychiatrist is accused of billing Medicaid more than $300,000 for services authorities said were never provided.

Shubhranjan Ghosh, 39, is charged by the state with medical assistance fraud, scheme to defraud and evidence tampering, the Anchorage Daily News (http://is.gd/57Jszz) reported. Ghosh is the founder and sole practitioner at Ghosh Psychiatric Services.

He was arrested Tuesday. His arrest comes after a string of unrelated charges connected to Medicaid in what the state calls a continuing crackdown on billing fraud.

The Alaska Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has charged 77 people with Medicaid fraud, abuse or neglect since October 2012, compared to about 30 people the decade before, according to assistant attorney general Andrew Peterson.

“It will hopefully serve to save taxpayers a significant number of dollars,” Peterson said.

The Ghosh investigation began in September 2013 when an employee alerted authorities that she had “discovered a large fraudulent Medicaid billing issue,” according to charging documents. The charges say the woman first noticed the fraud in the summer of 2013 when looking at a bill for a patient who was not in the office for the indicated visit.

According to the documents, the worker told the office manager, who said he and Ghosh had been submitting false billings for years to cover time spent doing non-compensated tasks such as phone calls and emails for Medicaid-related cases.

It’s unclear if Ghosh has an attorney. He is being held on $100,000 bail in Anchorage.

Authorities said one of Ghosh’s patients told investigators the psychiatrist asked to create false billings for her children. When the woman said no, Ghosh “responded that she owed it to him for everything he was doing for her,” the charges state.

The charges also say Alaska Medicaid billing records note that Ghosh billed Medicaid for more than 40 visits with the patient’s children.

Ghosh’s office manager has not been charged. Peterson said the investigation is ongoing.

Source: “Anchorage psychiatrist charged with fraud,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 17, 2014.

Psychiatrist Gary Byrd sentenced for child pornography…again

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 2:58 pm

A federal judge sentenced a former Opelousas child psychiatrist to 15 years in prison for possessing and receiving child pornography.

United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced this week that Gary Jefferson Byrd, 72, received that sentence from U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote. He also has been ordered to undergo 10 years of supervised probation after he completes his sentence.

Finley said this week’s sentencing followed a two-day trial in October.

“Witness testimony and documents admitted into evidence established that from February 2008 to April 2011, Byrd ordered 44 compact discs containing videos of child pornography from a Canadian company,” Finley said in a press release.

“United States Postal Inspectors executed a search warrant on Byrd’s home and found stacks of compact discs containing tens of thousands of images of child pornography that Byrd had downloaded from the internet. Byrd had also printed hundreds of images of child pornography that he kept in files in his bedroom,” Finley said.

She said the U.S. Postal Service Investigations conducted the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Luke Walker prosecuted the case.

This is Byrd’s second conviction on similar charges. In 1992, a federal jury convicted Byrd of possessing child pornography. He served 10 years in prison for that conviction. Before the 1992 conviction, he worked as a child psychiatrist.

“This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a U.S. Department of Justice launched nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse,” Finley said.

Led by U.S. Attorneys’ offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

Source: William Johnson, “Ex-psychiatrist sentenced for child porn,” The Daily World, April 20, 2014.

April 10, 2014

Mother’s lawsuit alleges psych unit has restrained her son more than 6,300 hours

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 2:00 pm

BOSTON — A Brookline woman filed a lawsuit against the state prisons department Monday, saying her 31-year-old son has been restrained for long periods at a state psychiatric hospital in violation of state law.

Joanne Minich said in her complaint filed in Norfolk Superior Court that her son, Peter Minich, has been held in prolonged isolation at Bridgewater State Hospital and continuously deprived of almost all human contact and exercise for more than 6,300 hours since January 2013.

Peter Minich, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has also been placed in mechanical restraints for more than 800 hours over 12 months, for as long as 50 consecutive hours, according to the lawsuit.

The suit seeks an injunction to prevent further restraint and Peter Minich’s transfer to another hospital.

The lawsuit names as defendants the state Department of Correction, the top administrator at Bridgewater State and the contractor that provides mental health services at the hospital.

Bridgewater State Hospital deferred comment to the state Department of Correction, which said it is “closely” reviewing the complaint and the facts of the case.

“While we cannot comment on specific individuals or cases, the use of seclusion and restraint at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) is a clinical decision and one we view as a measure of last resort to protect patients from each other, from themselves and to keep staff safe,” the DOC said in a statement.

The DOC said it has taken steps in recent years to better train staff in “de-escalation techniques” to limit instances where those measures are necessary. The DOC said it and the hospital also work closely with the Department of Mental Health to transition Bridgewater patients, when appropriate, to DMH hospitals.

A telephone message was also left for the contractor.

Peter Minich was civilly committed to the state Department of Correction facility after he was accused of assaulting staff at another state mental health facility. He has not been convicted of a crime.

“My son has an illness, in the same sense as someone with cancer or dementia. The last place he belongs is in a seclusion room behind a solid steel door,” Joanne Minich said in a statement.

State law prohibits the use of seclusion and restraint except for emergencies including “extreme violence” or “attempted suicide,” according to Joanne Minich’s lawyer, Eric MacLeish.

Minich was secluded and restrained for reasons such as “yelling,” ”bothering another patient,” ”standing on his sink,” and having “auditory hallucinations,” he said.

Source: Brookline woman sues state prisons over son’s isolation, restraint at psychiatric hospital, Associated Press, March 31, 2014.

State closes children’s psychiatric center for patient abuses

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 1:59 pm

GREENSBORO — The young patients might not have known what the law says about restraining a violent adolescent.

Still, they questioned the method used to subdue them at Omega Treatment Center: being held face down into a pillow, hands forced behind their backs as they struggled to breathe.

“I think it’s abuse,” a 12-year-old patient told state investigators in February. “They should not treat us like this.”

On Feb. 12, state investigators shut down Omega — a mental health center for adolescents — after investigating reports of abuse, neglect and dangerous living conditions.

The state issued an emergency order to close the center on Old Battleground Road. Omega’s troubled residents — most of whom have severe mental and behavioral disorders — are living in other treatment centers across the state.

The state’s Division of Health Service Regulation issued its final report last week.

It details a variety of problems. They range from shoddy record keeping, lack of heat and hot water to the most troubling of all — illegal restraint, both physical and “chemical” through the use of injectable antipsychotic drugs.

The report quotes an unnamed inspector with the Guilford County Department of Public Health: “I wouldn’t even allow a dog to live back there.”

The News & Record on Thursday wasn’t able to reach Barsheem C. Chapman, president of Omega’s parent company, Elite Adolescent Care. A phone number listed in his name is disconnected.

In late January and early February, investigators interviewed dozens of people familiar with Omega’s operations — patients, staff members, administrators and psychiatrists, though none are identified by name.

Investigators also reviewed patient files, medication logs and employee files.

This past week, they fined Omega $31,000 for the following violations of state law:

• Failing to use the least restrictive type of restraint possible to subdue the young patients.

• Failing to document the use of restraints and using drugs to subdue patients without permission from a parent or guardian.

• Leaving the children alone on locked residential wings overnight.

• Failing to put treatment plans in patient files.

• Preventing patients from calling their parents.

• Failing to document how staffers destroyed unused prescription drugs when patients left center.

• Failing to providing CPR and other training classes to 19 of 22 staff members.

The center’s director told investigators that the patients didn’t have the proper clothes to accommodate the lack of heat.

“It is cold in the facility,” the director said. “The clients have no warm clothes. … I spent my own money to buy them all coats.”

Omega’s patients are in the category of the most troubled adolescents who require residential care.

Many were prone to violent outbursts. Many have a history of being sexually abused.

One resident, an 11-year-old boy, was himself a sexual abuser. According to the state’s report, he went to juvenile detention once for sodomizing a sibling, and set a sibling’s hair on fire in another incident.

He suffers from depressive disorder and conduct disorder and has severe sexual problems, known as paraphilic disorder.

He told investigators that during one violent episode, staffers pressed his face into his pillow as he lay on his stomach.

“It hurts when you get restrained,” the boy said, “but isn’t that the point of it?”

Another patient, a 15-year-old with a mood disorder, similarly described the restraint method to investigators:

“I couldn’t breathe with my head on my pillow, so I had to turn my head around.”

The state’s interviews with Omega’s adult supervisors supported the children’s claims.

During an interview with state investigators in mid-February, the director of nursing said “there are times when I walk away and I can still hear (clients) screaming.

“The staff wants the clients to learn to stay in line.”

One former employee, a registered nurse, said she heard the screams of a 14-year-old patient with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The nurse then saw staffers use an improper restraint.

“I told them they had to let her up.”

It was her last day working at Omega.

“When I saw that abuse that day, I got the heck out of dodge,” she said. “It’s pitiful. Just pitiful.”

Source: Margaret Moffett Banks, “Update: State orders closure of Omega Center in Greensboro,” News-Record, March 27, 2014.

April 3, 2014

Washington counselor Sarah McCallum loses license for sex with client

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 1:53 pm

On March 28, 2014, the Washington State Department of Health suspended the credential of agency affiliated counselor Sarah Corene McCallum for at least seven years. McCallum had sexual contact with a patient she treated while working as a sex offender treatment provider at a Washington correctional facility.

Texas psychologist disciplinary actions, February 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 1:53 pm

On February 13, 2014, the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists took the following disciplinary actions:

  • Ordered Michael Pelfrey to pay an administrative penalty and obtain additional professional development for failure to display his license, as required by law.
  • Ordered April Owen to pay an administrative penalty and obtain additional professional development for failure to report legal action taken against her to the Board.
  • Ordered Marcella Fooks to pay an administrative penalty and obtain additional professional development for failure to provide records as required by law.
  • Ordered Jorge Carillo to pay an administrative penalty and obtain additional professional development for failure to provide records as required by law.
  • Reprimanded Gerald Bryan and ordered him to pay an administrative penalty and obtain additional professional development for providing a visitation recommendation in a child custody dispute without performing an evaluation and without having a therapeutic relationship with the child.
  • Reprimanded Dana Bernstein and ordered her to pay an administrative penalty and obtain additional professional development for failing to adequately document joint sessions between spouses.
  • Reprimanded Sean Ricks and ordered her to pay an administrative penalty and obtain additional professional development for providing psychological services on an expired license.
  • Ordered Alethia Phillips to pay an administrative penalty for supervising an individual who provided psychological services but was not licensed to do so nor exempt from licensure.

Utah psychiatrist loses licenses in two states

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 1:52 pm

On March 19, 2014, the Medical Board of California placed an immediate suspension on the license of psychiatrist Thomas K. Trauba.

This action was in response to the February 11, 2014 suspension of his license by the medical licensing authority of the state of Utah, whose document in the matter states that between approximately June 2011 and June 2013, Trauba overprescribed controlled substances, including morphine, oxycodone and oxycontin to a number of patients and failed to properly document in the patients’ records sufficient reason to justify the amounts and frequency at which he prescribed.

April 1, 2014

Mother files lawsuit over son’s extended restraints in psychiatric hospital

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 7:27 pm

BOSTON — A Brookline woman filed a lawsuit against the state prisons department Monday, saying her 31-year-old son has been restrained for long periods at a state psychiatric hospital in violation of state law.
Joanne Minich said in her complaint filed in Norfolk Superior Court that her son, Peter Minich, has been held in prolonged isolation at Bridgewater State Hospital and continuously deprived of almost all human contact and exercise for more than 6,300 hours since January 2013.

Peter Minich, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has also been placed in mechanical restraints for more than 800 hours over 12 months, for as long as 50 consecutive hours, according to the lawsuit.

The suit seeks an injunction to prevent further restraint and Peter Minich’s transfer to another hospital.

The lawsuit names as defendants the state Department of Correction, the top administrator at Bridgewater State and the contractor that provides mental health services at the hospital.

Bridgewater State Hospital deferred comment to the state Department of Correction, which said it is “closely” reviewing the complaint and the facts of the case.

“While we cannot comment on specific individuals or cases, the use of seclusion and restraint at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) is a clinical decision and one we view as a measure of last resort to protect patients from each other, from themselves and to keep staff safe,” the DOC said in a statement.

The DOC said it has taken steps in recent years to better train staff in “de-escalation techniques” to limit instances where those measures are necessary. The DOC said it and the hospital also work closely with the Department of Mental Health to transition Bridgewater patients, when appropriate, to DMH hospitals.

A telephone message was also left for the contractor.

Peter Minich was civilly committed to the state Department of Correction facility after he was accused of assaulting staff at another state mental health facility. He has not been convicted of a crime.

“My son has an illness, in the same sense as someone with cancer or dementia. The last place he belongs is in a seclusion room behind a solid steel door,” Joanne Minich said in a statement.

State law prohibits the use of seclusion and restraint except for emergencies including “extreme violence” or “attempted suicide,” according to Joanne Minich’s lawyer, Eric MacLeish.

Minich was secluded and restrained for reasons such as “yelling,” ”bothering another patient,” ”standing on his sink,” and having “auditory hallucinations,” he said.

Source: “Brookline woman sues state prisons over son’s isolation, restraint at psychiatric hospital,” The Republic, March 31, 2014.

Psychologist gets 8+ years prison on firearms charges

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 7:27 pm

ANDERSON, Indiana — A central Indiana psychologist convicted of illegally possessing firearms and ammunition has been sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison.

A federal judge in Indianapolis sentenced 66-year-old Bruce Jones of Anderson on Friday to 100 months and ordered him to forfeit 47 firearms and ammunition and pay a $12,000 fine.

Jones was barred from possessing firearms or ammunition under 1984 convictions for insurance fraud and selling drugs.

U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett tells The Herald Bulletin (http://bit.ly/O7xbPW ) firearms were found in Jones’ possession when a search warrant was served on his two Madison County properties and his Montana ranch. Four dozen firearms and 14,000 rounds of ammunition were found at Jones’ Montana property.

Hogsett says the investigation found Jones encouraged his patients to buy weapons for him.

Source: “Indiana psychologist gets 8-year prison sentence for illegally possessing firearms, ammunition,”
Daily Reporter (Greenfield, IN), March 29, 2014.

March 20, 2014

Indiana prison social worker Elizabeth Covington loses license after criminal conviction

Filed under: Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 9:02 pm

On February 18, 2014, the Indiana Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board indefinitely suspended the license of clinical social worker Elizabeth Covington, whose license the Board summarily suspended in July 2012 following an investigation which found that Covington had engaged in sexual intercourse with an inmate of the correctional facility where she was employed and had also trafficked in contraband. On or about May 2, 2013, Covington pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and sentenced to probation.

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