In an odd turn of national news, a Barry County, Michigan Medicaid CEO has just been sentenced to a minimum of 32 months or a maximum of 10 years in prison for using public funds to finance the services of his fortune teller. Ervin Brinker, 69, pleaded guilty in November 2015 to two counts of Medicaid Fraud Conspiracy and one count of Embezzlement by a Public Officer. Brinker redirected the funds into an account earmarked for a “health care consultant.” These funds were then used to pay the psychic and her husband. It is estimated that he paid out over $500K to the woman, made in two payments, in May 2011 and November 2012.
According to Fox 17, Ervin Brinker was CEO of Summit Pointe, a Battle Creek Community Mental Health Authority. Under the terms of his sentencing, he must repay $510,000 to Summit Pointe along with a civil penalty of $510,000 to the state of Michigan. Huffington Post adds that Brinker will be eligible for parole after serving 32 months of his sentence. Ervin Brinker is also required to forfeit his state pension, which at the time of his sentencing held a value of over $2 million dollars.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette released an official statement, reported by WWMT Channel 3, about the case.
“The cost of abusing the public trust in Michigan is very high, for both the abuser and the tax payer. I would like to thank Summit Point and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for assisting in this investigation.”
Yahoo News tried to reach Brinker’s attorney for a comment, but as of this writing they have received no reply.
Brinker’s misdeeds were flagged in December 2014 after an internal audit turned up questionable contracts. As Summit Pointe’s CEO, he was not required to obtain Board approval before signing off on contracts. He also did not consult with any other employees before entering into the contracts. From there the State Attorney General’s Health Care Fraud Division opened its own investigation into the discrepancies.
Ervin Brinker was terminated on February 17, 2015, with cause, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer, thereby making him ineligible for severance pay. At the time of his termination, Brinker made $350,000 a year. He was also eligible under the terms of his hiring contract for a one-time bonus of $233,000. Had he been fired without cause he would have received one full year of his salary. He had served as CEO for almost 25 years.
The Calhoun County Mental Health Authority, which does business as “Summit Pointe,” is the agency with which Brinker was employed, and has been in operation for over 50 years. It was established by the Board of Commissioners of Calhoun County. The agency’s primary work involves assisting people with mental health issues and developmental disabilities in gaining skills that will allow them to independently operate in the mainstream world. Their services are available to Medicaid recipients spread over a five-county radius.
Michigan has dominated the spotlight of late in multiple scandals involving political and business leaders as the state’s infrastructure continues to deteriorate.
It is not yet known whether Ervin Brinker’s fortune teller predicted this specific end to his long and glorious career.
[AP Photo / Ben Margot]