The psychic should have seen it coming.
A former mental health CEO in Michigan was sentenced this week to at least 32 months in prison for stealing some half a million dollars from the public agency he led for 25 years and giving it all to a palm reader, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.
Ervin “Erv” Brinker, 69, pleaded guilty in November to two counts of Medicaid fraud conspiracy and one count of embezzlement related to a scheme involving paying $510,000 in fake contracts to Tommy Eli and Julie Davis, a married couple and owners of a psychic shop in Key West, Florida.
The check was sent to 606 Duval St., Key West, Florida, to a storefront nestled between Linda’s Key West, where tourists could pick up a tie-dye souvenir shirt or a bong, and a shack selling “Garcia Cigars.” A glass sign hung in the window, with “Psychic” written in cursive, sheer white curtains draped around it, a model hand surrounded by amethyst crystals resting on the ledge.
As part of his plea, Brinker agreed to pay $1,020,000 in restitution, the total he stole from taxpayers, as well as a civil penalty in the same amount. Brinker also forfeited a $2 million public pension with the plea.
Until his firing in February of 2015, Brinker had made a name for himself as the trusted CEO of Summit Pointe in Battle Creek, Michigan, which provides mental and behavioral health care to Medicaid patients.
The Battle Creek Enquirer dug into Summit Pointe’s public records last year and unearthed three payments to Eli for “consulting services” between May 2011 and November 2012. The payments were made after fulfilment of a vague consulting contract. The services included “executive succession consultation and coaching,” recommending “financial options and opportunities for business success” and “consultation to the CEO regarding federal and state healthcare system changes.”
The only record received in return for this half-million was a one-page letter, reported the Battle Creek Enquirer, titled “an overview of the consultation services provided this year.”
The advice Brinker received for his felonious abuse of the public trust included the kind of opaque gobbledigook that psychics are so known for. “There will continue to be challenges,” Eli wrote. “Stay focused,” “Choose the right person, rather than settle for someone,” and “Things will change dramatically at the end of 2013. Continue to provide leadership.”
According to his attorney, Matt Vicari, Brinker is a kind of victim as well. Vicari told the judge Brinker was “clearly sorry and remorseful,” that he was in effect, addicted to the psychic and said he was receiving professional help for his “psychological dependence,” according to reports. Vicari also said that Brinker had paid the clairvoyants even more using his own money.
“I pushed it too hard and too far, and inappropriately used those dollars and for that, I am sorry,” Brinker said at sentencing. “Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do it again.”
What that kind of money buys in psychic services is unclear, but “Brinker talked to [Davis] every day” by phone, Megan Hawthorne, deputy press secretary for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, told The Daily Beast.
“We’ll never know what he was thinking when he was doing that,” Hawthorne said. “I would be very curious to know what she was saying.”
We may never know. Getting in touch with Eli and Davis has been difficult. Public records show Eli owned an astrology shop on Locust Street in Philadelphia before making his way down south.
“The place seems to be open, but there’s a closed sign on the door,” said Gary Kelly, owner of Moe’s Barber & Gun Shop across the street from their Key West shop. “The Christmas stuff is still up in the window.”
Kelly said he didn’t know the people who owned it, though. “Back in the ’70s we used to know everybody,” but now businesses on the strip pop up and leave so quickly, there’s no use, he said.
Family members of the pair replied “no comment” when called to inquire about their whereabouts, as did Gigi Costello, a licensed fortune teller in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with familial ties to Eli. When asked whether she had supplied Brinker with psychic services, Costello said, “No, ma’am.”
The art gallery, the hookah bar, and several neighboring businesses on the tourist strip hung up on The Daily Beast when called asking for the psychics.
Phone numbers registered to the pair’s businesses and homes are disconnected.
The calls to numbers that worked went unanswered. Psychic vibes were not returned.