More than a dozen people are expected to testify against a Central Florida man who investigators say pretended to be a psychologist.
Winter Garden Police arrested Frank Haberle, 49, in December.
Officials said he presented himself online and in person as Dr. Frank Haberle Drake and that’s how his patients knew him.
Haberle is charged with two felony counts of practicing a health care profession without a license and scheme to defraud. He also faces one misdemeanor count for fraudulent use of a mental health therapy counselor title.
He is currently out on bond awaiting a July trial date.
“I think it’s a shame he is blatantly scheming and tricking people,” said one former patient, who agreed to talk with News 6 as long as we did not reveal his identity. “He was advertising himself as a psychologist, a mental doctor.”
Bill, as we are calling him, says he was suffering from stress and anxiety, and searched online for a psychologist or psychiatrist with a PhD. He says he came across an online ad for Haberle that stated he was a psychologist practicing in Winter Garden.
Bill said he saw that Haberle had several five-star reviews on Healthgrades.com and RateMDs.com, so he decided to contact his office and schedule an appointment.
“He seemed more worried about how much I could pay him and how often I could pay him,” Bill said. “We spent most of the first session talking about my finances instead of the reason I was there.”
Bill says during his session at a Winter Garden office, Haberle encouraged him to try to apply for disability benefits and charged him a total of $3,500 to get the ball rolling.
“He claimed he had an 80-85 percent track record of getting people approved for disability,” Bill said. “So I was like, ‘Hey this guy must be really good.'”
Bill says he also saw Haberle had a PhD from Wellington Shaw Christian University. But after three sessions, he says he grew suspicious, and started doing research.
“He supposedly gave himself his own PhD to become a psychologist, which is ridiculous,” Bill said.
A Google search revealed Wellington Shaw Christian University was advertised as an online college that bragged about getting the quality of an Ivy League education with the convenience and affordability that only an online university can offer.
On Manta.com, it states the university proudly featured some of today’s greatest minds in the areas of psychology, theology, Biblical leadership and business teaching. On Yelp.com, it showed WSCU specialized in substance abuse, depression, anxiety and mental health but stated it had grown to be one of the top-rated mental health and substance abuse clinics in Central Florida, not a university.
News 6 went to the address listed for Wellington Shaw Christian University and discovered it led to a house in a gated community in Ocoee, the same house Haberle lists as his home address.
Even though Haberle is out of jail on bond, he wasn’t home when we came to ask questions about the university and the allegations against him. However, a family member was and told us she did not know about the charges or that Haberle listed the home address for the online university.
This is not the first time Haberle has been caught lying about his credentials.
State records show the Florida Department of Health started an investigation into Haberle in October 2016 and discovered Haberle did not have a mental health-counseling license in the state of Florida.
The Department of Health got involved when a reference check revealed Haberle performed a mental health evaluation on a customer who had submitted an application to a state agency. The state was checking to make sure the evaluation came from a credited source and that is when they discovered Haberle was practicing without a license.
The Department of Health then sent in an undercover investigator to Haberle’s office, located at 213 S. Dillard Street, to see if he was still presenting himself as a licensed mental health professional. In December 2016, Department of Health investigators served Haberle with a cease and desist order for practicing mental health counseling without a license and issued a citation.
The Department of Health conducted another investigation in 2017, after a patient contacted the Winter Garden Police Department about Haberle swindling him out of more than $3,000. DOH investigators again issued a citation and a notice to cease and desist for practicing without a license from November 2016 through mid-February 2017. Their investigative report states Winter Garden Police Department recovered approximately 120 patient files out of Haberle’s office.
“My heart just sank,” Bill said. “Because I knew he had got me and it was very likely I would not get any money back from him.”
Bill says when he confronted Haberle about the fraud and demanded a refund, Haberle threatened to have him detained under the Baker Act. He just fears how many people who really needed psychological care were duped by Haberle.
“He could be counseling people who are suicidal — this amateur clown,” Bill said. “What if somebody dies because he’s over there trying to scam them? They’re already suicidal.”
According to the arrest warrant, all mental health payments went into a personal account for Haberle. It also lists about a dozen men and women who all testified that they had paid for and received mental health counseling from a “Dr. Drake” at the practice in question and that he had represented himself to them as a psychologist possessing a PhD and as a licensed practitioner.
The police document states during a June 16, 2017 police interview with his lawyer present, Haberle described himself as a Christian counselor, spiritual advisor and someone who facilitates mental health counseling.
Haberle claimed that his spiritual counseling was part of a ministry through the Universal Life Church, where he is an ordained minister, and that payments were donations to further the ministry.
Many claimed to have received no spiritual counseling whatsoever and claimed that their interaction with “Dr. Drake” was entirely secular in nature.
When investigators asked Haberle where the money went, he confirmed it all went into his own accounts. Investigators also pointed out that the Universal Life Church will declare anyone an ordained minister if they fill out a form on their website, the primary purpose of the organization is to allow people to officiate and solemnize wedding, and that it is not a Christian organization.
News 6 tried several times to contact Haberle for comment, including leaving our card with Haberle’s family, and calling and emailing both him and his attorney.
We also contacted him on his personal Facebook page to get his side, since it showed he was posting on it up until mid-May.