Former Tryon Elementary counselor sentenced to two years in prison

Published 2:53 pm Friday, December 1, 2017

TRYON-Former Tryon Elementary School guidance counselor Joseph Korzelius will spend the next two years in prison and have to pay more than $436,000 in restitution after being sentenced in federal court for defrauding N.C. Medicaid.

Korzelius, 47, of Tryon, pleaded guilty in Asheville in June and was sentenced on Thursday, Nov. 30 by U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger, according to U.S. Attorney for the western District of North Carolina.

Korzelius was sentenced to two years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised probation and ordered to pay $436,229 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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From October 2013 to November 2016, Korzelius, who is a licensed professional counselor and Medicaid-approved provider of mental and behavioral health services, owned and operated Western Carolina Counseling Services in Tryon, according to court documents.

During that time, Korzelius identified students and their siblings from his work at Tryon Elementary School and used those potential beneficiaries’ information to access personal information in order to create and submit billings for psychotherapy services that never occurred.

“Court documents show that Korzelius had minimal documentation to support his billings for services he fraudulently represented that he provided,” states a press release sent Friday afternoon from the U.S. Department of Justice. “Further, many recipients who Korzelius billed for indicated they never sought or received services from either Korzelius or Western Carolina Counseling Services.”

Court documents also show that Korzelius controlled the bank accounts where the Medicaid approved reimbursements were deposited, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Korzelius submitted more than $450,000 in fraudulent claims and received $436,229 in reimbursements, according to court documents.

Korzelius pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud and was ordered to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his sentence upon designation of a federal facility, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Federal sentences are served in full, without the possibility of parole.

Korzelius was ordered to pay the $436,229 in restitution to Vaya Health, the company that administers Medicaid funds in western North Carolina.

Following Korzelius pleading guilty in June, Polk County Schools consulted with the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure student identities at the elementary school were not at risk.

Korzelius was no longer employed at Tryon immediately after pleading guilty in June.