Kailua coach
in Felix case

He faces charges of fraud
and forgery in connection
with special-needs therapy

By Susan Essoyan

Warren B. Johnson Jr., an assistant football coach at Kailua High School, has been indicted on fraud and forgery charges in connection with bills for $3,500 for therapy he was supposed to provide to a special-needs student at the school.

It is the second criminal case resulting from the state's investigation into allegations of fraud related to the Felix Consent Decree, a court order mandating improved mental health and educational services to special-needs students.

Johnson, a 39-year-old certified therapeutic aide, is charged with seven counts of medical assistance fraud and nine counts of forgery for bills he submitted to Nursefinders Inc. and the state of Hawaii, Attorney General Mark Bennett announced yesterday. The bills, dated April 2001 to January 2002, totaled about $3,500, he said.

"There are other Felix cases that we are looking at," Bennett said. "We are committed to vigorously prosecuting cases involving fraud against the government."

Each of the counts against Johnson carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

An arrest warrant has been issued, and his bail is set at $8,000.

Johnson's work as a therapeutic aide was a contracted service, separate from his part-time job as an assistant coach during football season at Kailua High. He could not be reached for comment.

Christopher Young, supervising deputy attorney general, said he could not give specifics of Johnson's alleged scheme or what sort of therapy was to be provided.

The indictment was handed down by an Oahu grand jury on Wednesday.

"We are limited in what we can release in the pretrial phase," he said.

The other criminal indictment stemming from the Felix investigation involved Susan Puapuaga, another therapeutic aide who was indicted in May and later pleaded no contest to medical assistance fraud. She will be sentenced in April for falsely billing the state for $1,800 in services that were not delivered.

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makaha) called the latest case an example of the sort of billings from therapeutic aides that troubled the Joint Senate-House Felix Investigative Committee, which she co-chairs.

"The investigative committee believed there were irregularities in billings," she said yesterday. "We're very grateful to the Attorney General's Office that they are taking such a strong and affirmative position on all of this."

Earlier this month, Hawaii Pacific Health agreed to pay up to $1 million to settle a claim resulting from a Felix pilot project that provided mental health services to children on the Big Island from 1996 to 1998.

The state had raised concerns about a lack of accountability and fiscal controls in the program, but the company admitted no wrongdoing.

Bennett said that anyone suspicious of medical assistance fraud should contact the Attorney General's Office at 888-586-7080.

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