How a felon came to run an autism treatment center, some MSU athletes stipend for advertising, DDOT changes

A White Lake family says they sent their daughter, who is non-verbal and has autism, to a facility in Brighton that's supposed to offer help and support - only to find out the woman who was running the program was a convicted felon and had falsified her credentials.

Kim Harden sent her 10-year-old daughter, Kennedy, to the Oxford Recovery Center in Brighton. She had been making great progress through specialized therapy but then she suddenly began to regress. That's when Kim learned she wasn't the only parent of a child with this issue. And then it got worse.

Leaving your child in the care of someone else is hard enough. Now imagine your child is non-verbal and needs a specialized therapy program.

"Not being able to communicate with me, it scared me to send her away somewhere and not know what her day is like - and what was going on," Kim said.

When Kennedy came home upset with unexplained injuries, Kim's fears became a reality.

The woman who ran the program, Casey Diskin, was a convicted felon and a fraud who had stolen the medical credentials of another certified behavioral analyst for years.

Kim admits she's always been overprotective of Kennedy, who was first diagnosed with autism around 18 months.

"She is pretty severe. She just recently was potty trained - within the last year. The communication's not there - she's non-verbal," Kim said.

In the beginning, Kennedy's therapy was done in the comfort of her own home using Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy. A Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) assesses children with severe autism and uses science in an individualized way to improve behavior, communication, learning, and social skills.

And it was working.

"It was going well. She was able to start reciting her name, her address, her age, family members, so we thought this was perfect," Kim said.

It was going so well, the Harden family reached out to Oxford Recovery Center in Brighton, which offers specialized testing and therapy that could further her progress.

That was a decision she's come to regret.

"I get several calls from Casey Diskin who introduces herself as the director of the arts program certified as a BCBA, who studied over in Australia," Kim said.

Diskin gave them a business card that said she was the director of ABA and a BCBA. It was listed on her bio with countless health facilities that focus on autism. She was even featured in a video on the center's website with the founder and CEO, Tami Patterson, where she described her techniques.

But Kim learned Diskin is not a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst. She says Diskin isn't qualified at all. In fact, she said she found out she was using someone else's credentials - a BCBA named Dr. Kimberly Peck.

We caught up with Dr. Peck who said this isn't the first time she's used her information.

"This is her third job using my certification number. I have reported it a number of times to multiple regulatory (bodies) in the state of Michigan and other agencies to the point my certification board has reassigned me a new number," Dr. Peck said.

Dr. Peck is a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst at the doctorate level and a licensed behavioral analyst. She first learned of the identity theft when a medical facility contacted her years ago.

She said Diskin used the name Kimberly Coden and submitted her certification number to apply for a job.

"The story she tells Kimberly Peck is her maiden name - from a messy divorce or something to that effect," Dr. Peck said.

Even though she used Peck's information, she didn't for that job. But in 2015, she used it again, this time using her National Provider Identifier (NPI) that allows her to bill insurance companies. Diskin started her own health care organization called Children's Alliance of Metro Detroit.

It was based in downtown Detroit at the Madison building. FOX 2 learned that she doesn't live there anymore and was kicked out because she was running the business and charging insurance companies from her home.

Records show she worked at multiple health providers that focus on autism and did so using Peck's certification number, NPI, and a fake license number. One of those locations was Centria Autism in Novi, which acknowledged she worked there for 90 days but they were unaware.

"If you don't know what you are doing and assessing those things - even from the jump it can be so dangerous. I just can't express enough how concerning it is that someone would feel so empowered to do this," Dr. Peck said.

Even more disturbing is that Diskin, who has worked with the most vulnerable children, is a convicted felon. She's listed as Kimberly Casey Coden Diskin and convicted of two cases of identity theft and larceny from a building.

Police reports from West Bloomfield Township detail that she stole thousands of dollars and credit cards from her mother's cousin. Then she did the same to her mother-in-law and stole jewelry and then her identity to open credit cards and access her bank account a year later.

Court records show that her family convinced Diskin to commit herself to a psychiatric hospital. She pleaded no contest to the charges, spent a day in jail, and then two years on probation.

"I guess the biggest question I have - what is it going to take, for someone to take this seriously," Dr. Peck said.

For years, Dr. Peck has been dealing with her stolen credentials and says it's been reported to the state, Diskin's parole agent, and the BACB, the national board that issues certifications.

Diskin's name is listed on the board website that she's falsified her credentials.

Despite all of that, she was still able to land a job at Oxford Recovery Center in 2018.

FOX 2 went to Oxford Recovery Center to find out more. We saw Diskin arriving to start her day but it's what's behind the closed doors that is concerning, including the resignation of several employees including medical director Dr. Christian Bogner.

The center, which is in the process of building a new autism center in Brighton, knew of Diskin's past. CEO Tami Peterson confirmed that in an email she sent to FOX 2's Taryn Asher: "We are aware of Ms. Diskin's past. As an organization founded by Christians, we believe in forgiveness and redemption."

She also said Diskin was "an exemplary employee since she was hired."

Even though she's not certified, Diskin created and directs Oxford's autism services ARTS programs, an integrative approach the center claims can lead to recovery.  

Kim Harden said Diskin convinced her that it was the best treatment for her non-verbal daughter. But Kim noticed a major change in the wrong direction.

"When I sent her there she was happy, she was smiling all of the time. When we left there, she can't even hear their names," Kim said.

Kim said Kennedy did well at first. But in February of 2020, she came home with bruises and marks on her body. Through the pandemic, Oxford's services continued but Kennedy was regressing.

Kim reached out to autism support groups and learned about Diskin's criminal past and falsified credentials.

"So I am panicking - completely panicking," Kim said.

Harden learned she wasn't alone and that several families had the same concerns. Those families also had non-verbal children who came home with the same marks and bruises. They also believed that Diskin, who created the autism programs and was expected to help their children, was a fraud.

"I trusted these people, and she is not who she claimed to be. And I don't know what type of interventions were taken on my daughter because I don't know her training now. I mean, I don't know," Kim said.

In 2020, several concerned parents went to Michigan State Police and filed their complaints.  FOX 2 obtained the police reports that claimed mistreatment of their children. Investigators spoke with an Oxford employee, child abuse expert, and the only verbal child who described being locked in a ‘calm down room’ and put in a four-point restraint for more than three hours.

MSP also interviewed Peterson who claimed the allegations were false, especially because it wasn't caught on their surveillance cameras. We asked MSP about the investigation and Lt. Erik Darling told FOX 2, they could not establish a crime occurred.

When FOX 2 went to Oxford Recovery Center, we were told to make an appointment to discuss the allegations - which we had tried to do on multiple occasions.

There is more about what's happening inside the center. Sources in Oxford's billing department said Diskin would write assessments for children, which she's not legally qualified to do. The sources said she would use the names and certification numbers of other behavioral analysts or doctors needed to bill insurance companies, even when they billed clients for cash.

The licensed professionals, who didn't want to be identified because they already have another job or were afraid of retaliation, said they were not aware their names were being used to bill insurance companies or clients.

Ned Cook, who works in marketing at Oxford, was shown some of the documents.

"One of the things I see from what you just showed me is, yes, we were aware in the past she may have done ... falsified the license. But since she's been here she's not done that.," he said.

Peterson responded via email and called the accusations false. She claimed Diskin has never engaged in improper billing and, although she is on video with Peterson and talking about creating programs and working directly with children, Peterson claims Diskin's position was only managerial and administrative - which doesn't require a license.

"I think it is unethical at the least, terrifying for people like Ms. Harden as you have seen because people are going to her in desperate situations. Parents are seeking behavioral treatment for their children, trust where they are going - and it can lead to dangerous consequences if people are not properly trained and not using evidence-based, safe practices," Dr. Peck said.

Kim fears irreversible damage has already been done and still, no one is being held accountable.

"This is why I am here with you: no one is wanting to help us. We have children that cannot speak and have someone who misrepresented themselves at this facility, convinced me to bring my happy child there - and now I don't have a happy child anymore," she said.

Oxford CEO Peterson sent another follow-up email asserting that the claims were false:

"I want to reiterate that these allegations are either wrong, demonstrably false, or taken out of context.  For privacy and other legal reasons, I really cannot comment further, other than to say that these claims appear to come from a former disgruntled employee and perhaps an unhappy parent. Oxford has helped many thousands of children and adults through the years, and I am proud of the work we have done and will continue to do," she said.

Since FOX 2 went to Oxford for answers, Diskin's credentials have been scrubbed.

The Department of Insurance and Financial Services says complaints are confidential until there are criminal charges or enforcement is taken.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) has not responded to our requests on this story. It's likely that any complaints are still under investigation.

It's unknown if the attorney general's office will pursue charges. 

DDOT proposes route changes

Detroit's public bus system is planning to reduce the number of scheduled trips its DDOT buses will travel, while also removing other routes in a proposed change to the transit schedule.

The city says reducing the frequency of trips will improve wait times in cases where buses are late or missing trips back-to-back. The proposed changes would impact scheduling on all days of the week, while also suspending three routes that account for 1% of daily ridership.

"Today, DDOT bus service is scheduled to be frequent, convenient, and reliable, but we have not been able to meet that promise," a presentation from the city says. 

To rectify the problem of 15-minute wait times turning into 30-minute wait times, DDOT says it is "right-sizing" service for its buses. The proposal calls for fewer trips but more reliable ones. The changes are scheduled to take effect Nov. 15. and the deadline for public comments for the proposal is Sept. 15. See the entire list of proposed changes here

UWM offering stipend to MSU basketball and football players

United Wholesale Mortage will give every Michigan State basketball and football player a $500 monthly stipend, one of the first examples of Michigan college athletes cashing in on their name, image, and likeness since a recent Supreme Court ruling.

CEO Mat Ishbia, a former Spartan himself that was part of the 2000 national title team, asked for only one thing in return: that players publicize the mortgage lender on their social media pages and spread the word about the company's home-lending options. 

"The people that follow these athletes are actually going to get a great benefit because they’re going to learn about the mortgage process, (and) the athletes are going to get a great benefit because they’re going to get paid," Ishbia said.

Not everyone thought the money was will spent. Two state lawmakers and MSU alumni see the stipend as "blatant sexism" for excluding female athletes. "Nearly 50 years after Title IX was signed into law, it’s incredibly disappointing and downright shocking that United Wholesale Mortgage chose to exclude talented female student-athletes," said Rep. Mari Manoogian. 

FACT CHECK: Biden oversimplifies UAW's support for boosting EV sales

President Joe Biden glossed over important details and oversimplified the facts in his boast about support from the United Auto Workers union for his effort to dramatically increase sales of electric vehicles by decade's end. 

In his remarks Wednesday, Biden failed to say that UAW did not endorse the EV targets he set in an executive order signed last month. The union's support is also dependent in part on robust government support for union-made cars in the form of tax credits in legislation pending in Congress -- something that is far from guaranteed to happen.

A look at the claim:

BIDEN, praising the work of UAW members: "The main `Big Three' (automakers) have decided along with the support of those unions on building, going electric, so we own that market."

THE FACTS: Not exactly. While UAW has expressed general support for more EV sales, it has repeatedly declined to back goals urged by Biden as part of his ambitious plan to combat climate change, including the 40% to 50% target agreed to by the largest automakers.

 – Courtesy of the Associated Press

Ford apologizes after Flat Rock leak

Residents looking for information on the gas leak in Flat Rock got plenty during a Wednesday virtual townhall with officials - but likely not the answers they were looking for. It's still unclear when families will be able to return to their homes after being put up in hotels

City, state, EPA, and Ford officials were all on the call, with the motor company taking the time to apologize for the weeklong disruption. "We did see through an access pit there was a crack in a pipe. The line that had a crack in it, we immediately shut that tank off," said Bob Holycross, the vice president of sustainability, Environment, and Safety Engineering at Ford.  

They are also donating a million dollars to the city and paying for hotel rooms and food vouchers for families. 

The EPA is currently sweeping the city with a million-dollar testing vehicle that can pick up trace amounts of any harmful chemicals.   

What else we're watching

  1. The family of an active Detroit Fire Department captain says one of their own has died. Cpt. Christopher Orzech passed Sept. 8 around 1 p.m. An organ donor Gift of Life Honor Walk is scheduled for Thursday at noon at St. Mary's Hospital in Livonia.
  2. Attorneys of Donald Trump that argued in his favor of overturning the 2020 election received their first bills from the state after a blistering refusal from a federal judge. More than $21,000 in attorney's fees were part of the first charge.
  3. It appears State Rep. Jewell Jones has violated his bond a third time. The Inkster lawmaker tested positive for alcohol three times on Sept. 3, according to the Livingston Daily.
  4. The House Oversight Committee will be meeting with the director of the Unemployment Insurance Agency after a list of missteps within the department that created a backlog in claims for people out of a job.
  5. In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, On the Border restaurant will donate 20% of sales to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

Temperatures will reach the low 70s Thursday with an isolated storm moving through the region later in the afternoon. The weekend will start off dry and a bit warmer Friday before more rain comes on Sunday.

Police arrest suspects accused of stealing identities of victims who died in South Florida condo collapse

Florida law enforcement officials said they arrested three people suspected of stealing the identities of victims who died in the Surfside condominium building collapse in June.

Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, 30, Rodney Choute, 38, and Kimberly Michelle Johnson, 34, were arrested earlier Wednesday on multiple charges related to fraud and counterfeiting, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced during a news conference.

Officials have identified at least five deceased and two living victims from the building, but the investigation continues and additional victims could be found, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.

"Cyber grave robbers did move very quickly after the collapse to grab what they could from deceased victims while family and friends were in absolute emotional turmoil," Fernandez Rundle said. "Their motto could’ve been, ‘Your loss is our gain.'"