On April 15, 2013, the Vermont Board of Medical Practice ordered psychiatrist Richard Keast to retain the services of practice monitor for at least one year. The Board’s document contains findings and conclusion that Keast failed to adequately document his treatment of patients and that improperly prescribed controlled substances.
December 19, 2013
On June 4, 2013, the Vermont Board of Medical Practice ordered psychiatrist Jennifer Fauntleroy to retain the services of a practice monitor for a period of at least one year (or less, dependent on the opinion of the practice monitor). The Board’s document provides findings and conclusions that Fauntleroy improperly prescribed controlled substances to three patients.
On August 14, 2013, the Maryland State Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists summarily suspended clinical professional counselor Andrew Clinton Stees for, among other things, sexual misconduct with a client and therapeutic deception.
On September 5, 2013, the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners accepted the surrender of licensed profession counselor David Robinson’s license. The Board’s document states that Robinson entered into a sexualized line of questions and comments to a female client with a history of suicide attempts, violence, depression and hallucinations who had also been raped. The client reported Robinson’s conduct and that he had continued to question her even after she’d voiced her discomfort.
On September 13, 2013, the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners revoked the license of licensed professional counselor Trisha McMahon based on a complaint filed against her by her former employer, alleging fraudulent billing and/or double billing. A review by the former employer found that in a one-year period, 43% of McMahon’s billings were for services with start or end times that overlapped with other billed services. It was also found that McMahon failed to complete clinical assessment documentation.
Former Rolling Hills Community Church pastor Travis Waits has been barred from practicing as a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist in the state of Oregon.
The Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists announced the ruling on March 5.
The board found that Waits, along with two individuals from Portland and one from Stayton, had violated the traditional code of ethics expected of licensed practitioners. Waits was alleged to have engaged in a sexual relationship with a former client, and was also charged with “disclosing confidential information about one client to another,” the board reported. Waits faced further accusations of improperly safeguarding confidential electronic information, abusing alcohol and “providing services outside his field of expertise.”
Waits was further criticized for the sexual nature of his relationship with two women who sought counseling for past sexual abuse.
The board issued a Notice of Proposed Discipline on Sept. 13, 2012, which proposed “to revoke the professional counseling (LPC) and marriage and family therapy (LMFT) licenses of Travis Waits.”
Faced with these charges, Waits surrendered his licenses and is permanently barred from practicing as a therapist in the state of Oregon.
The board is an Oregon state agency whose stated purpose is to protect consumers through enforcement of licensing requirements for professional counselors and therapists. The board maintains a code of ethics for state-licensed counselors and therapists and investigates complaints against practitioners.
The board’s executive director, Becky Eklund, confirmed that no fine had been issued to Waits.
According to the board’s notice of intent to revoke Waits’ license, Waits violated the licensee code of ethics, which prohibits sexual relationships between therapist and clients within three years of counseling.
Records show Waits was a pastor at Rolling Hills Community Church from March 2007 until his resignation in March 2011, when he disclosed he had carried on a sexual relationship with a female congregant who had also been his client in his private marriage counseling practice in 2009.
Waits reportedly began an extramarital affair with the woman, identified in board documents as “Client A,” while working with her through the church in August 2010.
Both Waits and his client were married during their on-again, off-again sexual relationship, which ended for good in late summer 2011, according to Waits.
Through his private practice, Waits began counseling a woman identified by the board as Client B in July 2010. After regular weekly sessions, including 20 with Client B’s husband, Waits allegedly shared inappropriate personal information about himself, detailed as admissions of his own personal struggles with anxiety, as well as his past infidelity. Waits was accused of flirting with Client B during this time, both in counseling sessions and when he encountered her socially. The board alleged that Waits’ advice to Client B became increasingly sexual in nature, and Client B claimed she confronted Waits regarding some of the chat messages and emails they exchanged outside of counseling sessions. When the woman told Waits she wished to stop seeing him as a therapist, he reportedly warned her that seeing another therapist would cause her psychological harm.
Waits also told Client B that Client A, an acquaintance of hers, had sought counseling from him for similar issues. He advised the two women to speak with each other, and it was then that Client B found about Client A’s affair with Waits, at which point Client B stopped seeing Waits as a therapist.
Waits was also charged with giving Client B access to client emails on two occasions when he asked her to install anonymous blogging software on his work computer.
The board found that Waits was impaired when he provided counseling services. Waits reported he was often drunk when he exchanged sexually-charged emails with Client A, and that he was also periodically under the influence of powerful prescription medication and took on too large a caseload by seeing around 34 clients each week.
Reached for comment, Waits confirmed that he closed his Tualatin-based private counseling business in 2012.
“I made some incredibly hurtful choices a few years ago, that deeply wounded the trust of my family and church community,” Waits said. “My wife and family have forgiven me for my moral failure, and we are rebuilding our lives together. I’ve had the help of some very caring counselors that have, and are, helping me in my recovery.”
On his own website, Waits responded to the charges against him by stating, “My title now is just Travis. Never again will I allow the position or title to sway me away from who I am.”
But in a blog post dated Feb. 18, Waits explained his motivation in creating the website traviswaits.com was to “set the record straight.” He addressed visitors who might be “one of the people maliciously slandering my name in your ignorance” or “a board member protecting the public in your lofty Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapist chair,” writing, “You cannot harm me, you have no power over me, you mean nothing to me.”
On June 24, 2013, the North Carolina Social Work Certification & Licensing Board placed the license of clinical social worker Larry Rhodes on probation for two years. During this period, he may only work in setting which has in place mandatory sexual harassment prevention training, among other requirements. The Board’s document states that during 2011 and 2012, Rhodes engaged in texting with sexual innuendo with his supervisee (a person with whom he’d had a personal relationship from 2003 to 2008). Further, the Board received a complaint from Rhodes’ employer, alleging workplace sexual harassment directed toward his supervisee.
December 17, 2013
Mental health services owner Calvin C. Estrich guilty of health care fraud, stealing identities, money laundering, etc.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A federal jury sitting in Charlotte returned a guilty verdict today for a Charlotte man accused of conspiring to defraud Medicaid of at least $700,000, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Calvin Cantrell Estrich, 32, of Charlotte, was convicted following a four-day trial before U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. Estrich was also found guilty of committing health care fraud, making false statement in connection with a health care program, stealing the identities of children and clinicians to commit the fraud, money laundering and making false statements to investigators.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Attorney General Roy Cooper, who oversees the North Carolina Medicaid Investigations Division (MID).
“We will not allow the likes of Estrich to use Medicaid or any other taxpayer funded health care program as their personal ATMs,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement of the guilty verdict. “Working together with our state partners we will find and prosecute those who pilfer precious health care resources from patients who need them and use scams to pocket taxpayer dollars.”
“Ripping off Medicaid harms needy patients, wastes tax dollars and contributes to rising health care costs,” North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said. “This conviction sends a strong message that criminals who cheat Medicaid will pay, and it’s a great example of our ongoing partnership to stamp out health care fraud here in North Carolina.”
According to filed court documents and trial proceedings, from October 2009 to November 2010, Estrich and his co-conspirator, Joye Strong, participated in a scheme to defraud Medicaid for medically unnecessary services. Estrich’s company, Everyday’s Blessing, was approved by Medicaid to provide Intensive In-Home Community Intervention Services, which are mental and behavioral services designed to stabilize living arrangements for youth and children and prevent out-of-home therapeutic treatment. Trial evidence showed that Estrich and Strong stole and misused the identities of a nurse practitioner and two therapists in order to complete the necessary paperwork for Medicaid to approve services for Medicaid recipients to receive these services. According to evidence presented at trial, once Medicaid approved Everyday’s Blessing to provide services to these recipients based upon the fraudulent paperwork, Estrich and Strong sought and received payment from Medicaid for the fraudulent services. Evidence presented at trial established that in many instances, the Medicaid recipients did not receive any services at all. For example, evidence presented at trial established that Estrich, aided and abetted by others, used the Medicaid recipient identification number of a juvenile identified as “J.R.” and falsely and fraudulently billed Medicaid for services that J.R. never received. Estrich and Strong, through Everyday’s Blessing, received over $24,000 in payments from Medicaid for these false services.
Evidence presented at trial also showed that Estrich and Strong stole the identity of therapist “J.O.” in order to obtain approval from Medicaid for fraudulent and medically unnecessary services. Trial testimony revealed that J.O. provided her name and credentials to Strong when she sought employment at another company operated by Strong. Thereafter, Estrich and Strong stole and misused J.O.’s identity by forging J.O.’s signature to paperwork for diagnostic and therapeutic services which J.O. did not perform.
According to trial evidence, based on the fraudulent claims Medicaid reimbursed Estrich and Strong $462,178, from which Estrich received $192,000 for his role in the scheme. Trial evidence also showed that when investigators interviewed Estrich about the fraud scheme in December 2012, Estrich made materially false and fraudulent statements to investigators.
Estrich remains free on bond pending sentencing. At sentencing, Estrich faces a maximum term of ten years in prison for the health care fraud conspiracy count and for each of the four counts of health care fraud. Each of the four counts of making false statements in connection with health care matters carries a maximum term of five years in prison. Each of the eight aggravated identity theft counts carries a mandatory prison term of two years. Estrich also faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for the money laundering charge and a maximum of five years in prison for the one count of making false statements to investigators in a federal health care fraud investigation. Each count of conviction carries a maximum fine of $250,000. A sentencing date for Mr. Estrich has not yet been set.
Estrich’s co-conspirator, Joye Strong, pleaded guilty to eight counts of health care fraud and two counts of money laundering on October 4, 2011. Strong is awaiting sentencing on these charges.
The investigation into Estrich and Strong was handled by MID with assistance from the North Carolina Division of Medical Assistance.
The prosecution was handled by Special Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy Rodgers and Laura Lansford of the Western District of North Carolina. Mr. Rodgers is a Special Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Ms. Lansford is an Assistant Attorney General with the North Carolina Department of Justice Medicaid Investigations Division. The SAUSA position is reflection of the partnership between the Medicaid Investigations Division and the United States Attorney that helps ensure the effective and vigorous prosecution of Medicaid fraud.
The investigation and charges are the work of the Western District’s joint Health Care Fraud Task Force. The Task Force is multi-agency team of experienced federal and state investigators, working in conjunction with criminal and civil prosecutors, dedicated to identifying and prosecuting those who defraud the health care system, and reducing the potential for health care fraud in the future. The Task Force focuses on the coordination of cases, information sharing, identification of trends in health care fraud throughout the region, staffing of all whistle blower complaints, and the creation of investigative teams so that individual agencies may focus their unique areas of expertise on investigations. The Task Force builds upon existing partnerships between the agencies and its work reflects a heightened effort to reduce fraud and recover taxpayer dollars.
A PSYCHIATRIC nurse who had a relationship with a teenager he met when she was under his care at Bodmin Hospital has been found guilty of misconduct at a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing.
Gideon Bryant, 48, met the 19-year-old at the hospital in January 2011, although claims a sexual relationship – formed after she was discharged – was inappropriate were not proved.
The NMC will decide in January if Mr Bryant should be struck off.
The “vulnerable” teenager – known as Client A – was admitted to the hospital’s psychiatric unit after being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
The three-day NMC hearing in London was told she became “fixated” on the father of two.
She was transferred from Bodmin Hospital’s Harvest Ward to a mental health facility in Devon in February 2011 and discharged fully in July.
Mr Bryant said after she was discharged he “bumped into” her in bars in Plymouth.
Mr Bryant, who admitted to a “loving and sexual relationship”, moved the teenager into his house in October 2011.
The health trust terminated Mr Bryant’s employment at Bodmin Hospital after an internal inquiry and he was made the subject of an interim suspension order by the NMC last year.
NMC panel chair Christine Castledine said there was no doubt Mr Bryant’s actions amounted to misconduct.
“You had ample opportunity to avoid commencing a relationship with Client A following her discharge from the ward and to put an end to it as it developed firstly into a friendship and then into a romantic and sexual relationship,” she said.
The panel said Mr Bryant’s actions were “all the more serious” because he knew the history of the patient.
A former licensed mental health counselor at the defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) pleaded guilty today in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for his role in a $63 million health care fraud scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations Miami Office made the announcement.
Ruben Busquets, 50, of Miami, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 20, 2014.
According to court records, Busquets was employed as a licensed therapist at HCSN, a mental health facility that purported to provide Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) services. A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. HCSN of Florida (HCSN-FL) operated community mental health centers at two locations. Court records indicate that Busquets was aware that HCSN-FL personnel were routinely fabricating patient medical records. Many of these medical records were created weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN-FL for purported PHP treatment and were utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Florida Medicaid. During his employment at HCSN-FL, Busquets and his co-conspirators signed fabricated PHP therapy notes and other medical records used to support false claims to government-sponsored health care programs.
According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.
This case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina of the Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.