"It got so raggedy ... I would put one floppy disk in there and do 15 charts with everybody saying the same thing," she recalled.
When people did come in, Parnell would take down their information, and Pride would bill for them even if they never came back, she said. When the fake clients were due to complete their rehab program, Pride employees created diplomas to put in their files, she said.
"I was getting freaked out about it, but the money was good," said Parnell, who made $13 an hour.
Whistle-blower emails sent to a Los Angeles County auditor in 2011 accuse Nwogene of leaning hard on his workers to carry out the scheme.
"I refuse to do any ghost writing because that is illegal," one of the emails said. "The owner of Pride Health (Godfrey) had an emergency meeting last week and stated that if we didn't want to do the paper work the Pride Health way, then we should resign."
Nwogene seemed unstoppable. A Pride employee wrote in another email to an investigator, "One thing im (sic) kinda scared of is that he has told us that no one has been able and will never be able to take him down."
Nwogene's skill at avoiding a crackdown played out in full force in 2011, as he faced heat from both state and county authorities.
An auditor sat in on a group therapy session -- but no one showed up. The auditor reported that Pride "appear(s) to have developed fraudulent documentation to support their billing claims," according to a county memo.
"A serious problem has come up with this agency," one county regulator wrote in an email obtained under the California Public Records Act. "ALL ROSTERS SIGNED IN THE SAME HANDWRITING by, it appears ... the same person and all billing for this program will be disallowed."
The county froze funding and conducted a follow-up investigation that found "extremely grave violations" and "deficiencies that warrant the termination" of Pride's contract. Los Angeles County drafted letters notifying state officials and Nwogene that it was cutting off funding.
The state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs drafted a letter to temporarily suspend Pride from the Drug Medi-Cal program because of "severe deficiencies" from 2005 to 2011.
Neither of the letters, according to county and state representatives, ever was sent.
Nwogene had been asking for help from the office of Mark Ridley-Thomas, one of five county supervisors. Now chairman of the county board, the former state senator represents the district where Pride operates.
The politician's aide, Salya Mohamedy, inquired, and Viernes, the county substance abuse prevention director, detailed the clinic's violations and allegations of fraud. Still, Mohamedy asked Viernes to set up a meeting "so that we can resolve this matter once and for all."
Internal emails show that this was not an unusual request: During the second half of 2011, Ridley-Thomas' aide contacted Viernes on behalf of half a dozen other rehab providers facing problems with regulators.
Nwogene met with Viernes on August 10, 2011. In a thank-you letter to Ridley-Thomas' aide, Nwogene called the meeting successful.
"Your intervention opened the door to dialogue," Nwogene wrote. "That dialogue led to a resolution."
While Pride may have had flaws, Nwogene wrote, "reckless and mean spirited" county staff treated the organization unfairly.
In the end, Pride Health Services' contract wouldn't be terminated. The funding spigot was on again.
In an interview, Viernes expressed frustration that supervisors urged him to meet with clinic owners even when they knew about the serious problems found by auditors.
"I get emails from the supervisors, (saying), 'When are these people gonna get paid!'" Viernes said.
Ridley-Thomas' top health deputy, Yolanda Vera, denied pressuring Viernes. The lawmaker's office got involved, she said, to "make sure that these agencies at least are getting some access and having their concerns addressed."
Asked about the CIR/CNN findings regarding Pride's billing, Vera expressed concern. "If true," she said, "I would ask the question as to why are we contracting with this agency."
But Viernes said the message is pretty clear: Help the clinics improve instead of cutting them off.