Edward Birts, 51, was the man behind Courage to Change, a NASA-area counseling practice that offered group therapy and other psychiatric services. So we're guessing he offered clients plenty of advice on how to behave ethically and morally in an often confusing world.
They may start thinking twice about the source of that advice, seeing how the U.S. Attorney's office and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott have just announced a 17-count indictment against Birks, charging him with identity theft and Medicaid fraud to the tune of almost $1.3 million.
Birks, the indictment says, took his patients info and "routinely billed Medicaid for group therapy sessions and psychiatric counseling that were not provided to the beneficiaries."
It may have been just as well that the patients didn't get the counseling:
The U.S. Attorney's office says Birks claimed to have a doctorate in psychology, but...
...the indictment alleges Birts purchased a doctoral degree online and then awarded himself several bogus professional certifications in counseling, thus is not legally licensed or professionally qualified as a psychiatrist, psychologist or a counselor.
Other health care fraud counts arise from accusations that Birts routinely billed Medicaid and Medicare for psychiatric counseling services provided by "Dr. R. B." on behalf of Courage to Change Inc. when "Dr. R.B." did not provide the services and was neither employed nor contracted by Courage to Change Inc.
"Dr. R.B." sounds like the frontman for a lame weddings-and-bar-mitzvahs cover band, but in his defense, he is at least a (purported) doctor.
From January 2003 to September 2006, the indictment says, Birts billed Medicaid and Medicare for almost $1.3 million and received almost $1 million in federal payments. He probably was bitching about bureaucracies when it came to the other $400,000.
Here's what he's facing:
The conspiracy and each of the 12 health care fraud counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine upon conviction. A conviction for aggravated identity carries a mandatory two-year-term of imprisonment for each of the four counts of aggravated identity theft.
Sounds like he's gonna need some counseling. Paging Dr. R.B., Dr. R.B. to the white courtesy phone......
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.