Friday, March 27, 2009

Marriage Family Therapist: Pleads Guilty And Sentenced

On March 25, 2009, a former contract therapist with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health accused of defrauding the county and filing false tax returns pleaded guilty today. MFT Carla Gireaux, 62, pleaded guilty to one count each of grand theft of personal property and filing a false tax return. Under the plea agreement, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Horwitz sentenced Gireaux to 16 months in state prison.

Gireaux, a licensed marriage and family therapist, was charged last month in a felony complaint . She allegedly billed the county for mental health services never rendered. Of 196 clients, 25 were interviewed by investigators establishing a loss of $76,469. Based on the total client population of 196 people, a statistician calculated the total loss at an estimated $593,399.44. At sentencing, the defendant was ordered to pay restitution in that amount to the County of Los Angeles. The complaint alleged that Gireaux filed false tax returns and failed to file a tax return. Thus, she was additionally ordered to pay the FTB $112,272.
Commentary: In fraud cases in state court, the amount of restitution paid prior to sentencing is often key to the disposition. This was a fairly significant sentence given the first time offense and age of the MFT. There was no indication that she had made restitution prior to sentencing and that could be the reason for the 16 month sentence. The case was resolved relatively quickly in Division 50 (Judge Horowitz) in what is known as EDP (Early Disposition).
Perhaps the reason for the seemingly high sentence for the first offense is that the government is the victim. It is difficult to know.
One of the significant disadvantages of a 16 month state prison term is that the MFT will not be eligible to have her case expunged. In addition, there was no apparent agreement to have the offense reduced to a misdemeanor.

Any questions or comments should be directed to:  Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates in Los Angeles, CA. They focus their practice on the representation of licensed professionals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and criminal proceedings.


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