The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
Daniel Owens, pastor of Life Springs Dream Center in Sanford, North Carolina, and the director of the Dream Center, an affiliate of the church that combats human trafficking, addiction, and homelessness, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to medicare fraud. Owens is expected to be sentenced next week.
Court documents state Pastor Daniel Owens netted more than $10,000 in kickbacks and bribes as part of a Medicare fraud scheme.
Owens is a pastor at Life Springs Dream Center in Sanford. He is also the director of the Dream Center, an affiliate of the church that combats human trafficking, addiction and homelessness.
In November 2021, Owens pleaded guilty to federal Medicare fraud charges.
Owens is set to be sentenced federally on Jan. 23. The maximum penalty for the crime is 10 years in prison.
Court documents show between January 2020 and April 2020, Owens is accused of conspiring “to offer, pay, solicit and receive illegal heath care kickback payments in exchange for the referral of patients for cancer tests that were submitted to Medicare for reimbursement.”
“We’ve known about that for two years,” Sauls said of Owens. “He’s walked. He’s cooperating with authorities. He’s admitted what he did. He didn’t know he was doing anything wrong.”
Federal documents detail a scheme to recruit people to undergo unnecessary cancer screening tests.
The Life Springs Dream Center posted a Facebook video Thursday acknowledging the organization’s leadership had been aware that pastor Daniel Owens – who has been central in Life Springs Church’s effort to obtain $500,000 in county funding for the center – pleaded guilty to federal Medicare fraud charges in 2021 and will be sentenced later this month.
Owens appeared in the video with lead Pastor Dale Sauls, who did most of the speaking. Sauls said the situation was “not fortunate” and “bad.”
“We found out that on social media, has surfaced some information about my twin brother Pastor Daniel that has been less than flattering to say the least. So we felt like that we needed to give some sort of explanation about that,” Sauls said. “In this particular situation, we knew about this situation before it happened, during it happened, and after it happened.”
Neither Sauls nor Owens responded Wednesday to multiple attempts by phone and email to reach them for comment about Owens’ November 2021 guilty plea in a Philadelphia federal court. Questions posed by email included “if you or the church in general were aware of the guilty plea, why was the information that a leader of your efforts had recently pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges not disclosed at the time of LSAT’s application for funding?” and “do you feel like the taxpayers and commissioners from whom your organization was soliciting money deserved to know that you’ve pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges?”
Those questions were not addressed in the video.
Instead, Sauls explained that Owens was deceived by a previous employer and that it was “too late” to avoid charges by the time he learned he’d broken the law.
Explaining that Owens was working part time with Life Springs because “we were not in a position in those days to pay him full time,” and that he eventually found employment through the website Indeed.com, Sauls said “the job involved helping people get pre-cancer screening. So he began to work for the company, they said you do this and we’ll pay you this. Didn’t make a lot of money but, nevertheless, that was his job. Come to find out later on that the company he was a part of, while he was very well intended, his idea was ‘I’m helping people,’ they were not so well intended. And they were doing things illegal, and when he found out about it, it was too late. He immediately said ‘yes I work for the company, yes I did what they said, and they said ‘okay well if you will cooperate with us during this, then we’re gonna take care.’”
The charging document in the case doesn’t mention what company Owens was working for at the time of his fraud – which prosecutors say involved recruiting people to undergo unnecessary cancer screening tests, sending them to a lab out of state and then receiving a kickback after the testing was billed to Medicare – but it does say that Owens is “the owner of People Loving People, a corporation located in Sanford, North Carolina that purportedly provided marketing and consulting services.” Owens is listed on the North Carolina Secretary of State website as the registered agent for People Loving People.
The November vote to award funding to the Life Springs Dream Center has since come under scrutiny for a variety of reasons – first, its speed (the grant was approved the night it was introduced, even after County Manager Dr. John Crumpton recommended further study), and later because it was determined that LSAT did not have necessary IRS approval as a nonprofit entity. That means the county is unable to enter into a contract on the Dream Center proposal until nonprofit status is approved.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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