February 26, 2009
The fraud trial of Aaron Pulsifer, founder of the Youth Challenge program aimed at keeping at-risk teens out of jail, continued this morning in Lowndes County Circuit Court.
Pulsifer, 31, of 94 Mckay Drive in Columbus, was arrested Aug. 18, 2008, by the Lowndes County Sheriff''s Office on one count of felony identity theft and 13 counts of felony Medicaid fraud.
Pulsifer is accused of using the identity of a licensed clinical social worker, Teresa Hubbard, to steal more than $1.1 million dollars over the course of three years, by filing false claims to the state Medicaid department, claiming Hubbard had provided diagnostic and counseling services on behalf of Youth Challenge to more than 180 of the program''s participants.
Hubbard testified Wednesday, stating she had entered into a memorandum of understanding with Pulsifer in October 2004, to provide services to Youth Challenge program participants, but she canceled the agreement -- in a notice of cancellation signed by her and Pulsifer -- 17 days later, after she felt "uncomfortable" with a clause stipulating she would make a monthly donation --"equal to 15 percent" of the money she received from clients referred by Pulsifer -- to the Youth Challenge program.
"The terms of the agreement, in my mind, were not ethical," Hubbard said. "You don''t pay for referrals; that''s not considered ethical."
Prosecuting attorney Stanley Alexander referred to the stipulation as a "kick-back clause;" Hubbard said she canceled the contract before performing any services for Pulsifer or Youth Challenge.
"I''ve never been paid anything by Mr. Pulsifer for anything," she said.
Additionally, she testified Pulsifer was not authorized to use her Medicaid provider number for billing purposes and she had no knowledge of him linking to her provider number or of any clients billed under her name.
"I never knew he was using my number," she stated. "Why would he be using my number? There would be no reason."
In addition to officials from Medicaid, the state also called on a former Youth Challenge employee -- Yolanda K. Jones -- to testify.
Jones, the owner of Moving Forward Counseling Center, worked for Pulsifer and Youth Challenge for "two or three months" in April 2008.
Jones was hired, at an annual salary of $55,000, to "provide individual, family and group therapy," she said, noting she is not certified as a Medicaid provider and cannot bill Medicaid.
She also said Pulsifer was not certified as a Medicaid provider, but she witnessed both he and his half-sister "going into the Medicaid system" to bill for services, noting Pulsifer told her he used Hubbard''s number to do so.
After Medicaid officials asked to see the records of the clients for which the organization was billed by Youth Challenge, Pulsifer asked Jones to "make some charts," Jones testified, adding she refused to "create the charts."
"I told him we couldn''t do that," she said. "It would have been unethical to make up records."
Pulsifer was accused of using lists -- which he was provided by school systems for which he performed security services -- of absent students to obtain the students'' names and Social Security numbers.
Earlier, Sylvia Autry, the retired superintendent of the Meridian School District, testified Pulsifer, through Youth Challenge, was hired to provide "hall (and) cafeteria monitoring and truancy prevention" services.
"He wanted to offer counseling, but our principal told him we already had our own counselors," Autry recalled of a conversation with Pulsifer.
"Each day, he would get absence reports," she added, noting the reports contained students'' names, Social Security numbers, parents'' names, home addresses and work information. "He would call the parents to be sure the parents knew their child was not at school that day."
"They obtained the absentee lists and the names and (identification numbers) were checked to see if they had Medicaid," Jones said. "If they had Medicaid, he would bill them."
Pulsifer''s attorney, Nicole Clinkscales, tried to show bias from Jones, who was subpoenaed by the state to testify.
Outside the presence of the jury, Jones, following an order from Circuit Judge Lee Howard, noted, in 2005, she treated Pulsifer for "grandiose, delusional thinking" and "paranoid-type" schizophrenia.
"He had a history of grandiose delusional thinking" and a history of "auditory hallucinations," she said.
Alexander said bringing up Pulsifer''s history of treatment was a "back-door approach to a mental-illness defense."
Prior to his 2008 arrest, Pulsifer was jailed from 1996 to 2001 on felony false pretense charges.
If he is found guilty of the 14 felonies, Pulsifer could be sentenced to up to 80 years in prison and be forced to pay a fine of $660,000.
Pulsifer was released on a $220,000 bond Sept. 24, 2008, according to LCSO Chief Deputy Greg Wright.
The Youth Challenge office, on Alabama Street, has been closed since Pulsifer''s arrest.
Dan commented at 2/27/2009 3:41:00 PM:
You can take one look at this guy and tell he is a chump. How can someone with obviously nothing higher than a high school education think they can do something like this? We had a classroom for people like him in high school, it was the trailer behind the cafeteria called SPED.
What's worse the people in this shack on Alabama street were either ignorant or just gullible. I hope he finds a nice boyfriend in prison.
teensprograms commented at 8/30/2010 1:32:00 AM:
Mental health recovery counselors prescribe individual and group counseling programs for troubled children suffering from psychological problems such as ADD, ADHD, ODD, Bipolar disorders and others. Counseling programs are helpful in assessing the specific needs and demands of depressed kids. Teens counseling programs help in achieving quick recovery from stress, depression, drug addiction and aggressive behavior.
1. Coach Marsh will be remembered COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY