A man whose career centered on counseling lower-income citizens has been charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of their tax dollars.
Following a two-year investigation, the Oklahoma Attorney General charged behavioral health therapist John Doneti in a scam to defraud Medicaid.
Doneti faces five counts of Medicaid fraud, one county of identity theft, and two conspiracy counts. A former co-worker, Angelique Williamson, is also charged in four of the counts.
"John was a nice guy, it seemed," said Jeffrey Plunkett, a licensed professional counselor who worked briefly with Doneti.
Doneti owned and operated Central Oklahoma Behavioral Health Services (COBH), through which he contracted with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to provide counseling services to families on Medicaid.
But in 2011, investigators say, while claiming to help numerous clients, Doneti was actually helping himself to large sums of government funds.
"It's frustrating," said Plunkett, "we are supposed to be in a helping profession."
Plunkett says, although he was affiliated with Doneti for a short time at COBH, he was unaware of the illegal scheme. Doneti allegedly submitted false claims for reimbursement to OHCA, not only under his own name, but also under the names of other therapists like Plunkett.
"I saw the list with my name on it," Plunkett related, "and that was shocking--shocking!"
Plunkett had no involvement in the scam, but says he feels compelled to restore the damage done to his industry through Doneti's scheme.
"I think that angers me more than anything else," said Plunkett, "using people to get money out of it and pretending to be helpful."
According to court documents, Doneti submitted the majority of the fraudulent claims between October 2011 and December 2011. On 52 separate days, the documents show, Doneti billed OHCA as though he counseled in excess of 24 hours.
In that scheme alone, he was reportedly reimbursed $174,406.
Court documents suggest Doneti spent the money he was taking in freely. Co-defendant Williamson told investigators he paid for her breast augmentation and gave her frequent bonuses.
"I'm not vindictive, but I think people need to be held accountable for what they do," Plunkett stated.
Doneti is being held on $17,000 bond, and a warrant is out for Williamson's arrest.