Local News

Columbus County school counselor faces arson, fraud charges

Posted August 8, 2011 8:05 a.m. EDT
Updated August 8, 2011 9:22 a.m. EDT

— An elementary school counselor in Columbus County has been indicted on charges of wire fraud, identity theft and arson, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Monday.

Michael Shawn Brown, 45, was a licensed professional counselor at Chadbourn Elementary School, while he operated a separate counseling business that allegedly provided free teacher-supervised tutoring services, snacks and transportation to children of lower-income families.

Brown required his employees to obtain copies of each participant's Medicaid card. Authorities said two participants who registered but had no further contact with Brown, reported that he billed Medicaid for individual psychotherapy or group behavioral counseling and therapy sessions for as long as two hours a day.

Brown sent false billing sheets claiming the therapy sessions to his billing agent in Florida on March 21 and April 13, authorities said.

Authorities said Brown refused to meet with investigators requesting his records on April 14, and rescheduled for April 18. The night before the records inspection, authorities said, Brown's business burned down.

Brown told authorities he was last at the business at 2:30 p.m. the day before the inspection, but authorities allege he had a relative drive him to the business that night.

Brown is charged with 20 counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, two counts of arson and one count of making material false statements.