Youth Challenge founder pleads guilty to fraud

February 27, 2009

Kristin Mamrack -

 

The Columbus man who founded Youth Challenge -- a program aimed at keeping at-risk kids out of jail -- Thursday pleaded guilty to seven counts of Medicaid fraud and was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison. 

 


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. 

 


As part of his plea agreement, the count of felony identity theft and six counts of Medicaid fraud were dismissed. 

 


Circuit Judge Lee Howard Thursday sentenced Pulsifer to serve two years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections on each of five counts of Medicaid fraud. 

 


He also was sentenced to serve five years in MDOC for each of the additional two counts of Medicaid fraud; he was sentenced to a total of 20 years, to be served consecutively, in MDOC and five years of post-release supervision. 

 


Additionally, he was ordered to pay $5,000 restitution and $4,000 to the attorney general''s office for the cost involved in trying the case, as well as all court costs and assessments. 

 


All funds are to be paid in full within five years of his release from confinement. 

 


Pulsifer pleaded guilty on the second day of his trial, just before prosecutors announced their intention to rest their case. 

 


He was accused of using the identity of a licensed 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 participants, but canceled the contract, in a letter signed by Pulsifer, 17 days later. 

 


Hubbard said she felt "uncomfortable" with a clause stipulating she would make a monthly donation to Youth Challenge equal to 15 percent of the money she received from clients referred by Pulsifer and she canceled the contract before providing any services or receiving any payments. 

 


Witnesses, called Wednesday and Thursday by the prosecution, supported the state''s assertion Pulsifer never acknowledged the cancellation of his business relationship with Hubbard and instead lead others erroneously to believe he billed Medicaid -- for services for more than 180 children -- using Hubbard''s provider number, with Hubbard''s knowledge. 

 


Called by the state attorney general''s office to testify, a Medicaid employee Thursday noted Pulsifer, through Youth Challenge, received $1.1 million in Medicaid reimbursements and no children ever received treatment for which they were billed. 

 


Prior to Pulsifer''s plea, outside the presence of the jury, Circuit Judge Lee Howard ruled the prosecution could introduce Pulsifer''s prior convictions --¬†for "crimes of dishonesty" -- to impeach his testimony, if Pulsifer took the witness stand on his own behalf. 

 


In 1996, Pulsifer was convicted of five counts of uttering forgery and one count of felony false pretense; he was sentenced for those crimes to more than seven years in prison. 

 


The Youth Challenge office, located on Alabama Street, has been closed since Pulsifer''s arrest in August.