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South Dakota counselor gets 3-month jail sentence for fraud; billed state for bogus sessions

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — A counselor who charged the state of South Dakota nearly $28,000 for sessions that didn't happen has been sentenced to three months in jail for fraud.

Judge Vince Foley told 42-year-old Shawn Nills that his crime would have been worthy of a prison sentence, but the counselor's lack of a criminal record and the presumption of probation carried by the nonviolent felony charge tied his hands due to state law, the Argus Leader reported (http://argusne.ws/1JO389j ).

"But for the Legislature, I'd send you to the pen," Foley told Nills on Thursday at the Lake County courthouse.

Nills received a five-year prison sentence, suspended on the condition he commit no new crimes and pay his fines. He'll also be barred from accepting Medicaid or Medicare clients for five years, and could lose his state counseling license.

"I knew what I was doing was wrong and I did it anyway," Nills said. "My actions have cost me everything."

Suspicion of fraudulent billing surfaced last year, according to Assistant Attorney General Paul Cremer, when a family with private insurance got an explanation of benefits outlining payments made for a counseling session that never happened.

When Nills' employer, Community Counseling Services of Madison, heard about it, their billing department began to comb through records to see if there were problems with its software. They only found problems with Nills' records; he'd billed for sessions with several clients who'd been marked as "no shows."

He was first suspended, then fired last spring.

Nills had asked for a suspended imposition of sentence, which would have wiped his record clean for good behavior. But the judge denied the request.


Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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