Friday, October 29, 2010

NY woman who forged autism therapist credentials sentenced to 3 years in prison

From The Stamford Advocate in Conn.:

STAMFORD, Conn. -- The New York woman who used forged credentials to fleece more than $150,000 from families with autistic children and the Norwalk school system was sentenced to three years in prison Oct. 28.

Stacy Lore, 34, formerly of Carmel, N.Y., was given an eight-year prison sentence that will be suspended after she serves three years, followed by five years of probation. She is accused of posing as a board certified behavior analyst and told Norwalk school officials she had two master's degrees and a doctorate so she could work for the public school district as a consultant on autism treatment services.

Victims of her scams said they paid her tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for what they though was specialized treatment for their autistic children. One such parent, Kim Graham, said she uncovered the fraud after moving her high-functioning son to another specialist who had real-life qualifications and effective therapies. She became suspicious and checked the online registry for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. She could not find certification records for Lore. It took months for school and police officials to act, she said.

Using her forged credentials and a company named Spectrum Kids, Lore billed the Norwalk school system $155,000 for services to children with autism between 2007 and 2008, records show. Families of the special-needs children whom Lore treated without any qualifications spoke out in court in the moments before Judge Richard Comerford handed down the sentence.

All of them urged the court to punish Lore with the maximum amount of prison time allowable, arguing her lack of qualifications with autism treatment stunted the development of their children. They called her a monster, liar and manipulator and said she bought a black Mercedes with the money she made by posing as an autism treatment specialist.

Margaret Bustell, of Norwalk, told the court she confronted Lore when she realized the scope of her fraud. At the time, Lore defended herself and showed her falsified credentials and advanced degrees from New York University.

In reality, she only had a 1993 high school equivalency diploma from New York state.

"They were real children with real problems, and we needed real solutions," Bustell said, choking up at points while reading her statement to the court.

Defense attorney William Pelletreau, of Norwalk, said Lore made no excuses for her crimes and urged the court to accept the recommended sentence of a three-year suspended prison term, saying it was a case that "screams for" psychiatric treatment.

Before handing down the prison sentence, Comerford expressed doubts that Lore was remorseful for her crimes. He also cast blame at those responsible for allowing Lore to pose as a certified behavior analyst for so long.

"There are more people responsible for this than are in this courtroom today," Comerford said.

Bustell said families of the children affected by Lore's fraud plan to sue the Norwalk school district. Attorney Greg Kimmel is representing four families in a civil action against Lore and the city of Norwalk that he plans to file in the next few weeks.

Lore has been charged by Weston authorities on similar accusations and is also the subject of an investigation in New Fairfield, prosecutors said Thursday.