Prison for York man who lied about college, past crimes to work with troubled kids
A 69-year-old York City man must spend more than four years in state prison for falsifying his credentials and failing to disclose his extensive criminal history before being hired to work with troubled children.
Kenneth Vernon Banks appeared in York County Court on Monday, March 11, where he was sentenced to 50 to 100 months in prison, according to court records. That's basically four to 8⅓ years.
Banks had been hoping to avoid prison and to instead have presiding Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock grant him access to veterans' treatment court. Treatment courts allow judges to closely monitor defendants as they go through rigorous requirements designed to solve their core issues.
Banks provided his military discharge form to the judge on Friday, March 8, after which he was denied entrance to veterans' treatment court and sent immediately to prison to await Monday's sentencing hearing, according to court records.
Defense attorney Bill Graff said Banks turned in a military discharge form that had been doctored to change his "other than honorable" discharge to honorable discharge.
The judge wasn't fooled.
The background: Banks, of the 200 block of West Cottage Place, pleaded guilty Jan. 30 to the third-degree felonies of tampering with public records and Medicaid fraud. He also pleaded guilty to five counts of forgery and one count of making a false statement; all six offenses are misdemeanors.
He committed Medicaid fraud because the job in question is funded by Medicaid, according to the state attorney general's office, which investigated and filed charges in the case.
According to charging documents, Banks worked as a mobile therapist and behavioral special consultant for T.W. Ponessa & Associates Counseling Services between Oct. 3, 2017, and Oct. 23, 2017 — a total of 20 days. Ponessa, at 2485 Eastern Blvd. in Springettsbury Township, provides comprehensive treatment for children and adults who have a variety of mental-health concerns, according to its website.
Clients include children with serious emotional disturbances and those on the autism spectrum, according to the attorney general's office. Court documents state Banks was hired to work with such children.
Overbilled: The AG's office began investigating Banks after a Ponessa attorney sent a referral to the office that stated Banks had billed the company for more services than he provided; lied about having two master's degrees and three other college degrees; and failed to disclose his full criminal history, the affidavit states.
He was hired pending verification of his credentials and a criminal-history check, then fired once the company determined he had lied, according to the affidavit.
Banks claimed to have two master's degrees, two bachelor's degrees and an associate's degree from five colleges and universities, but those institutions told investigators that Banks didn't graduate from their programs, according to the AG's office.
When applying at Ponessa, Banks had to disclose his criminal history. On an employment application, he wrote that he was convicted of a crime "29 years ago (for) misuse of a credit card," the affidavit states.
Multiple arrests: But a criminal-history check showed Banks had multiple misdemeanor and felony arrests, including being charged with felony-graded theft of leased property, for which he was convicted in 2008, according to the affidavit.
The form on which he misrepresented his credentials and criminal history is a standardized one from the state Department of Education and notes that failing to be truthful could lead to a charge of unsworn falsifications to authorities, the affidavit states; Banks signed the form.
In March 2018, Banks was interviewed by a special agent with the DA's office who asked him why he failed to disclose his full criminal history, documents state.
"The defendant responded by saying, 'I served my time and my time was up, so I didn't put it down,'" according to the affidavit.
When the agent asked to see Banks' college degrees, he claimed they were in boxes and he didn't want to dig them out. He then said perhaps they were under the name "Vernon Banks" and not "Kenneth Vernon Banks," the affidavit states.
No graduation records: Court documents state that the five institutions searched their records not only by name but also with Banks' Social Security number and date of birth, and they found no records.
Banks also told the agent that he "retired" from Ponessa after having a stroke and that Ponessa staffers were "understanding when he told them he was going to retire," the affidavit states.
Banks' guilty plea was an open one, meaning it was up to Trebilcock to determine the proper punishment.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.