Michigan consultant pleads guilty in prison drug program scam

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A consultant to federal prison inmates has pleaded guilty to fraud charges in connection with a scheme to coach prisoners how to lie their way into a drug and alcohol treatment program that results in sentence reductions.

Tony Pham, 50, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy and wire fraud crimes in federal court in New Haven, Connecticut. He faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced in March.

Authorities say Pham and two other Michigan residents, Samuel Copenhaver and Constance Moerland, ran Michigan-based RDAP Law Consultants.

Prosecutors say the firm had clients fake or exaggerate drug or alcohol problems, including showing up drunk while reporting to prison, to get into the federal prison Residential Drug Abuse Program, which can cut up to a year off of prison sentences.

Prosecutors say the firm took in at least $2.6 million from clients during the scheme from September 2012 to January of this year.

Moerland pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years of probation in August. Copenhaver also pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 16.