fight any charges the federal government might obtain against him.

Justice Department prosecutor David M. Maria has stated in court hearings that Shifa and Serenity hired buses to transport hundreds of patients from outside Baton Rouge and outside Louisiana to the local clinics.

Maria also stated in hearings that many of those patients were housed in Baton Rouge apartments that were owned by Imran and others who held interests in the clinics.

A former office manager for psychiatric clinics in Baton Rouge and Houston pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in a case she admitted cost Medicare as much as $50 million.

Erica Williams, 42, of Beaumont, Texas, is one of at least 17 people who have been charged in Baton Rouge in connection with alleged frauds committed through three outpatient clinics — Shifa Community Mental Health Center in the 6700 block of Goya Avenue and Serenity Center in the 1000 block of Lobdell Boulevard in Baton Rouge, as well as Shifa CMHC of Texas LLC in Houston.

Williams is one of six defendants who have either pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the ongoing investigation by the Baton Rouge Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

U.S. Justice Department prosecutor Abigail Taylor told Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson that Williams agreed to cooperate in the investigation and that Williams admitted she routed patients who were not eligible for partial outpatient psychiatric services to a doctor for treatment.

Williams also admitted she falsified records to hide those crimes and directed other employees to falsify records, Taylor told the judge.

“You knew they (patients) were ineligible, is that correct?” Jackson asked Williams.

“I did,” Williams replied.

The judge then asked Williams whether it was true she directed the falsification of group therapy notes.

“I did,” Williams said. She told the judge that her actions contributed to Medicare losses of at least $20 million, possibly more than $49 million.

Jackson then accepted Williams’ guilty plea and scheduled her for sentencing on Sept. 25.

The judge noted that the maximum possible penalties for conspiracy to commit health care fraud include a 10-year prison term and fine of $250,000.

No physician was among the defendants indicted in the case in April 2012.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Shubhra Shivpuri and Taylor obtained an amended indictment last week that added Dr. Zahid Imran to the list of defendants. Imran is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of health care fraud.

Imran was an owner of Serenity Center and psychiatrist for both Serenity and Shifa in Baton Rouge.

In an interview last year, Imran said: “There is nothing wrong” in the way the clinics billed Medicare for reimbursement of mental health services.

Imran also said he would