Michael Brown pleads guilty to arson and wife fraud. (Source: Columbus Co. Sheriff's Office)
CHADBOURN, NC (WECT) - An elementary school counselor in Columbus County plead guilty to wire fraud and arson in federal court Monday and he still faces first-degree murder charges.
Michael Brown, a counselor at Chadbourn Elementary School, was already facing a charge of murder from March 2010. He's accused of shooting Larry Towns at Five Points, a Christian Counseling Center that Brown owns. Brown told investigators at the time that he was started when Towns walked inside his business after hours. He said he shot Towns because he thought he had a knife.
The charges come from Brown's work with Five Points, which provided "free" teacher-supervised tutoring services, snacks, transportation services, youth activities and games to lower income people. To participate, people had to present their Medicaid card, which employees were instructed to copy. The U.S. Attorney's office alleges Brown routinely billed Medicaid as though he had performed "individual psychotherapy" or "group" behavioral health counseling and therapy sessions on children for as much as two hours on a single day, although they say Brown often never had contact with these children.
When investigators asked to see Brown's records, Brown's business burned the night before. Investigators were never able to examine the records.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the maximum penalty for the wire fraud charges is 20 years and no less than 10 years for the arson charge.