Stevens

Congressman Evan Jenkins, right, spoke with Open Minds Recovery Services Director David Stevens, left, in front of their education room at the Open Minds Recovery Center in Mount Hope in October 2016. Stevens, 57, was sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement, and was ordered to pay more than $137,000 in restitution for his role in defrauding the State of West Virginia of grant funds designated for the Mount Hope recovery center.

In October 2016, David Stevens shared with local media his vision — a vision to house roughly 100 men in need of substance use treatment.

The Mount Hope facility, Open Minds Recovery Center, was set to offer 12- to 24-months’ worth of intensive group, individual and family therapy sessions.

The center was going to teach recovery skills and basic life skills, such as relationship building and job maintenance.

Twenty-two men signed up, ready to enter recovery. But they were never admitted. Open Minds never opened its doors.

Stevens was quoted at the October 2016 media event: “I’m by no means rich, but I’ve made a decent living. I’ve always been able to provide for my family, and this is my way to give back.”

Two years later, Stevens, the administrator of Open Minds, pleaded guilty to mail fraud, admitting he had falsified grant reimbursement requests meant for the recovery center.

He was sentenced this week in federal court to serve six months in prison and six months’ home confinement. He was also ordered to pay more than $137,000 in restitution.

Stevens, 57, could have faced a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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According to court documents, Stevens initially located Open Minds in Beaver, then later moved to Mount Hope. His title was administrator, project director and fiscal officer.

Stevens applied in early 2016 for a $501,500 reimbursement-based grant from the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services (DJCS). The application said the purpose of the program was to “work with adult males that have a criminal history and demonstrate a high risk to reoffend with a need for substance use treatment and who may have been diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder.”

DJCS awarded the grant, requiring an itemized list of reimbursements, vendor invoices, employee timesheets, and copies of checks submitted to vendors and employees, for reimbursement. Stevens provided signed forms, which were initially reviewed and approved by DCJS.

After an investigation, however, it was discovered that “many of the vendors listed either were not paid or were only partially paid.”

At least $136,932 of the grant funds paid by DJCS to reimburse Open Minds for specific vendor costs were never used by Stevens to pay vendors or reimburse Open Minds for vendor costs. The court documents said some of the funds were diverted to Stevens himself and some were diverted to the benefit of his other companies.

“Defrauding West Virginia means defrauding West Virginia taxpayers,” U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said in a release. “Stevens received public funds for a substance use treatment program. Our state has suffered greatly as a result of the opioid epidemic. Treatment and recovery dollars are critical to insure West Virginians with substance use disorder can get much needed services and support. As always, we will hold accountable those who misuse or misappropriate taxpayer dollars.”

Stuart commended the investigative efforts of the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith George Thomas and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stefan Hasselblad handled the prosecution. Senior U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. presided over this week’s hearing.

Email: wholdren@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren

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