Counselor charged with defrauding Medicaid program of more than $100K

Michael Clarence Johnston

Michael Clarence Johnston

Michael Johnston, the former owner of a Monroe county counseling service, allegedly submitted numerous false claims while committing Medicaid fraud

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Bruce R. Beemer today announced the arrest of a licensed professional counselor charged with submitting hundreds of fraudulent Medicaid claims in an alleged scheme that netted him more than $100,000 for counseling services that he never provided.

Michael Clarence Johnston, 55, the former owner and operator of Vision Counseling Services in Brodheadsville, Monroe County, was charged with various criminal offenses following an investigation by the Office of Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Section.

Over a three-year period Johnston submitted numerous claims for counseling services that he alleged he provided to clients in Pennsylvania. But, according to investigators, in many instances he was actually out of the country during the times he alleged to have provided these services.

“The allegations in this case involve a serious misuse of public money,” Attorney General Beemer said. “The commendable work of our Medicaid Fraud Control Section has brought us closer to holding this individual accountable for his actions.”

According to investigators, Johnston was licensed in Pennsylvania and approved as a Medicaid provider to provide mental health services to clients insured through the state’s Medicaid program. He offered counseling services to individuals with mental health conditions and substance abuse issues.

The investigation included a review of Johnston’s domestic and international travel records, which showed that he traveled extensively to Jamaica and other locations outside the country for extended periods of time. The travel records confirmed Johnston billed for services on dates when he was in fact out of the country, investigators allege.

Former clients of Johnston also identified many additional false claims for services that Johnston had billed for, but never provided. Moreover, investigators said they identified an ongoing pattern of suspicious financial transactions in which Johnston structured withdrawals from financial institutions to disguise his activities and to avoid state and federal reporting requirements.

Johnston is charged with two counts each of Medicaid fraud and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, as well as one count of theft by deception.

Johnston previously lived in Monroe County, but now resides in Lauderhill, Fla. He was recently arrested by authorities in Florida and is awaiting extradition to face the charges filed in Monroe County.

Attorney General Beemer thanked the Florida Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Lauderhill Police Department for their significant contributions to this investigation.

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Section is tasked with investigating cases of Medicaid fraud and other crimes that it uncovers during the course of its investigations.

This case will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Janice Martino-Gottshall of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Section.
SOURCE:  Attorney General’s Press Office