Read an update to this story here.
East Lansing, MI – Summit Pointe’s CEO Erv Brinker’s criminal case against him rests on what Bill Schuette, the Attorney General for Michigan, alleges were corrupt contracts that involved a man from Key West Florida and a fortuneteller.
Brinker was arraigned on July 22nd of this year on one count of embezzlement by a public official and two counts of Medicaid fraud conspiracy. According to a press release given after the arraignment, Schuette stated that his Health Care Fraud Division investigation divulged the fact that “Brinker allegedly sent the $510,000 to a Key West psychic palm reader and her husband under the guise of health care consulting.”
“As CEO, Brinker had the authority to contractually bind Summit Pointe without Board approval and he allegedly signed the fraudulent contracts without the consultation of other employees. Additionally, Brinker did not notify the Board of Directors of the alleged contracts,” reads the press release.
68-year-old Brinker stood calmly before Ingham County District Judge Richard Ball as his attorneys waived a preliminary examination of the charges and he was officially charged. His case was sent over to Ingham County Circuit Court for trial and there is a pre-trial hearing set for August 12th of this year.
There is a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a $5,000 fine for each charge upon conviction.
According to Matthew Vicari, one of Brinker’s attorneys, their defense team has been cooperating with the attorney general’s office for several months now.
Jeffrey Schroder, assistant Attorney General, explained to the judge that they were getting close to a plea-bargain agreement with Brinker and his defense team.
The judge released Brinker on a personal recognizance bond of $25,000 under two conditions that Schroder named and that everyone agreed to:
The first condition is that Brinker could not have any contact with Summit Pointe or any of its employees.
The second one was that Brinker was also to have no contact with any palm readers, fortunetellers, or psychics.
Tommy Eli from Key West was listed as a Summit Pointe contractor and his name was mentioned at the meeting where Brinker was fired on February 17th.
Brinker, via his lawyer, repeatedly refused to answer questions about Eli at the public hearing. He declined to speak unless he was guaranteed that any information given would not be used to criminally prosecute him in the future.
The lawyers for Summit Pointe accused Brinker of making fake contract services. They also said that they weren’t able to find any professional credentials for Eli and that the only document as proof of work was one-page long.
One thing they did know however was that Summit Pointe sent Eli payments totaling about $510,000. He billed the agency for about 1,100 hours of service supposedly provided from October 2012 to April 2013. On some of these invoices, Eli claimed that he conducted the services face to face at the offices of Summit Pointe. The last payment of $265,000 was paid to Eli by overnight courier and was marked “to the attention of” Julie Davis at an address in Key West.
This address turned out to be the address of a psychic business and according to a business license filed with the city of Key West, Davis is a supposed “psychic and tarot card reader”.
During his press release, Schuette made the following statement: “Ensuring integrity in our health care system is critical to the safety of all Michigan citizens. Anyone attempting to skirt the law at the expense of patients and taxpayers will be identified and brought to justice. I would like to thank Summit Pointe for bringing this case to our attention and providing assistance and full cooperation to ensure this never happens again.”
Summit Pointe sent a press release to several media outlets after the arraignment saying that Summit Pointe leaders and attorneys had worked with the Attorney General’s Office for months prior to arraignment.
Trae Allman is the board president and was quoted as saying, “When our board was informed of employee concerns about irregularities in contracting and expenditures, we engaged Fraser Trebilcock as independent counsel to conduct a careful, external investigation. What we found through that process increasingly disappointed and alarmed us as a board, and among a series of other necessary actions, we contacted the appropriate authorities. We are appreciative of the efforts of the Attorney General, and the Department of Health and Human Services, and we are relieved that this difficult chapter is finally over” in the press release.
The Summit Pointe board decided to fire Brinker and alleged that he fabricated a defined-benefits pension plan without seeking the approval of the board, and for his own personal benefit. They also accused Brinker of having “apparent and actual conflicts of interest” with some of the vendors for the agency, and that he failed to competitively contracts worth millions of dollars, instead granting them automatically to vendors who he had his own outside business ties with.
Brinker was fired after a three month long internal investigation into the agency by the law firm that Summit Pointe hired for this- Fraser Trebilcock Davis and Dunlap from Lansing Michigan. During the investigation, two other executives for Summit Pointe, Bob Lambert who was the Chief Operating Officer and Leon Karnovsky who was the Chief Financial Officer, resigned from the company.
After terminating Brinker, the agency has since replaced all empty positions and made more money. They also decided to cut off contracts with several vendors who were named in the resolution to fire Brinker. They have also made changes to its community partnerships.
The annual Summit Pointe audit that was presented to the board in June uncovered financial reporting weaknesses. When asked for an opinion, the auditors wouldn’t issue one because they weren’t able to “obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence” as well as because of the ongoing investigation.