Treatment center owner pleads guilty

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2022

Vernier, former owner of Community Counseling, was indicted on 34 charges

A man accused of dozens of charges including defrauding Medicaid, selling Suboxone illegally and money laundering has plead guilty to two felony charges in the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court of Judge Christen Finley.

Paul Vernier, the owner of Community Counseling and Treatment Services, Inc., was indicted in 2019 on 34 counts stemming from 2014. The case was prosecuted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

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On Feb. 5, Vernier plead guilty to two fourth degree felony counts of Medicaid fraud, said Steve Irwin, the press secretary for the Ohio AG’s Office.

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17.

“We did not make a recommendation for sentencing to the court,” Irwin said.

In March 2019, Vernier was indicted on three counts of third-degree felony Medicaid fraud, 12 counts of money laundering, 17 counts of third-degree felony trafficking in drugs, one count of first-degree felony aggravated theft and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. The indictment alleges that on several dates in September 2014, Vernier did knowingly prepare the controlled substance Suboxone for distribution and the amount equals or exceeds five times bulk amount but less than 50 times bulk amount. Vernier had pleaded not guilty to those charges in 2019.

The indictment alleged that Vernier deceptively got $1.5 million in payments from the Ohio Department of Medicaid by making false or misleading statements to get reimbursement from the Medicaid program.

Irwin said that Vernier agreed to forfeit $1.5 million and three business locations in Lawrence and Scioto counties that Vernier allegedly got through activities of CTS but “those assets are already subject to a federal civil forfeiture.”

However, it is unsure at this point if the State of Ohio will claim those assets or whether the federal government would.

“There is a federal case in Kentucky that is ongoing, so depending on how that goes, those assets would only come into play if the case were dismissed or if he were to be found not guilty,” Irwin said. “Then the state action would come into play. But that is on hold until the federal case is resolved.”

Vernier opened the CTS in December 2011 on State Route 93 and it was Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services certified and a non-profit drug treatment center specializing in the treatment of opiate addiction. In 2012, he said he had been a drug addict for two decades before getting clean and earning a master’s degree in education in counseling and human development from Lindsey Wilson College. He had been a licensed chemical dependency counselor in Ohio.