Owner of notorious drug treatment center pleads guilty today

Drug treatment center owner Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to recruit persons into sexual acts, a charge that could send him to prison for life.

His wife, Laura Chatman, pleaded guilty to two counts of falsifying and covering up the ownership of the treatment centers. She applied for state licensure for the facilities even though her husband, a felon, was the one owning and operating them. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

Their sentencing will be May 17 at 10 a.m.

Kenneth Chatman walks into Reflections, his treatment center in Margate in December, 2015.

Chatman had been charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy to commit health care fraud. His wife had been charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and multiple counts of money laundering.

Chatman owned Reflections Treatment Center in central Broward County and operated sober homes throughout Palm Beach County. The places were notorious drug dens, with up to 90 percent of patients – who were supposed to be getting sober – doing drugs.

Chatman’s ties to prostitution were first exposed by The Palm Beach Post in December, 2015. Nearly a year later, federal authorities arrested him.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

State ethics board clears Palm Beach County Sheriff, two others

The Florida Commission on Ethics cleared Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and his chief deputy on allegations he misused his position to investigate another candidate for sheriff.

The complaint was filed by former deputy Mark Dougan, a frequent thorn in Bradshaw’s side. He said he filed it about a year ago, before the FBI raided his home, prompting him to flee to Russia.

 

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw speaks during a news conference on Monday, April 14, 2016. During the event, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a ceremonial bill on a piece of victims’ rights legislation at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in West Palm Beach. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

“For them to find no probable cause, when they’re on audio admitting to what they’re doing, the system is broken,” he said. “That’s all there is to it. They won’t hold anyone accountable.”

He said he gave the commission audio recordings of one of PBSO’s investigators, Mark Lewis, talking about going after the sheriff’s enemies.

One of them was Jim Donahue, who was investigated after speaking out about PBSO’s budget.

PBSO records show that in 2010, the department opened an investigation into Donahue, a week after he went before county commissioners with complaints about the department’s budget. He filed to run for office, but never appeared on the ballot. He was charged with four felonies stemming from discrepancies on his 2008 application to work at PBSO. Prosecutors dropped the charges.

Lewis was cleared by the ethics commission. The ethics commission also found no probable cause that Bradshaw “disclosed inside information for his personal benefit or for the benefit of another.”

The commission also found no probable cause that Bradshaw’s number two, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger, “misused his position to direct an investigation of a candidate or expected candidate for Sheriff and to recommend the filing of criminal charges against him.”

The board, which rules on ethics issues involving politicians and state employees, also found no probable cause that Gauger investigated others in Palm Beach County.

Bradshaw told The Palm Beach Post in early February that the ethics commission had already found no probable cause against him.

“I was told through my lawyers no probable cause,” Bradshaw said. He described the investigation of Donahue as legitimate.

“He wrote a 50 page letter about how corrupt we were,” Bradshaw said. “The more we looked at it the more we saw he had put inaccurate information.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

What’s a “save shot” and why did Prince reportedly get it?

Prince_at_Coachella_001
Maybe you believe TMZ’s tabloid reports that Prince overdosed on opioids -twice – and had to be given a “save shot” – twice- or maybe you don’t.

Or maybe you want to know what a save shot is.

Short answer: It’s Naloxone, also known by one brand name, Narcan. Naloxone is an antidote to an opioid overdose. That can be from opioids such as Percocet, which Prince’s sister said the singer used, or from heroin.

It can be agonizing. But it’s a re-entry to life, and everyone from the Surgeon General to the President of the United States is urging broader access to the drug.

Delray Beach, Sarasota, Stuart: They needed no convincing. Police officers in all three cities are carrying Narcan.  And with good reason. Less than a day after Delray police started carrying it, they had to use it, saving the life of a 20-year-old who relapsed and overdosed on heroin.

Narcan kit used by Delray Beach police.
Narcan kit used by Delray Beach police.

In dozens of other states, you can buy Narcan over the counter, no prescription needed. In one northeast city, a doctor wrote an “open prescription” so that anyone could go into any drugstore and buy the life-saving drug.

But not in Florida, home to unprecedented numbers of heroin overdoses.

Those overdoses reflect the large  numbers of people coming to Palm Beach County to recover from heroin- and the numbers of unscrupulous businesses exploiting them. That includes dumping them into cheap hotels after they relapse- with deadly consequences.

Read more about addiction in our series Addiction Treatment: Inside the Gold Rush.

Fed report: More Medicaid equals fewer addiction troubles in Florida

Hypodermic needles found in the trash at a cottage apartment by Jean Thomas, 83, in West Palm Beach's Prospect Park neighborhood. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Hypodermic needles found in the trash at a cottage apartment by Jean Thomas, 83, in West Palm Beach’s Prospect Park neighborhood. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Elevator scene from the National RX Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta:

Reporter to woman: Are you here for the conference?

Woman: Yes, I’m from Detroit.

Reporter: We’re from South Florida.

Woman: Oh, South Florida. That’s where you go when you’ve got money for treatment.

Or not.

On Monday, Health and Human Services released a report on just how many Floridians with addiction or mental health issues can’t get adequate help – in some cases, any help – because the state won’t expand Medicaid, a key feature of Obamacare.

(Comes a day before President Obama is slated to speak at the Summit. Coincidence? You decide.)

Anyway: Florida has fought tooth and nail against any such expansion, even though the rolls of Floridians on the health plan for the poor continues to rise.

About three in every ten people living below 138 percent of the poverty level need treatment for drug abuse or mental illness or both, HHS estimates.

From those numbers, the feds put together these numbers in the report:

  • 390,000: Number of uninsured Floridians age with either mental illness or an addiction problem who would qualify for treatment under Medicaid expansion. (For bragging right purposes, that’s second only to Texas among states without Medicaid expansion.)
  • Nine: Percentage of uninsured Floridians getting help for the above, 2010-14.
  • $7 million-$190 million. Budget savings range reported by different states which expanded Medicaid.
  • 17, 18, 33: Percentage drop in arrests among three groups of people frequently in trouble with the law after Washington state began providing them with Medicaid-financed substance abuse treatment.

We already tackled one tricky addiction math question this morning, one raised by this festive magazine cover.

Harpers' controversial piece on legalizing drugs- all drugs.
Harpers’ controversial piece on legalizing drugs- all drugs.

Stay tuned as Post reporters Christine Stapleton and Pat Beall cover the Summit live from Atlanta.  Stapleton and Beall are members of a team of reporters that have been investigating scams in Palm Beach County’s $1 billion drug treatment industry

The 8-month long investigation by the Palm Beach Post uncovered patient brokering, insurance fraud and kickbacks.

 

Congressional reps ask state to close local juvenile lockup until FDLE wraps up investigation

 

Shelley Vana, paying a second visit to the juvenile center.
Shelley Vana, paying a second visit to the juvenile center.

Four South Florida congressional representatives are asking the state to shutter Palm Beach County’s troubled juvenile detention center until an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement agency is complete.

In an Aug. 7 letter to Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly, U.S. Representatives Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch and Patrick Murphy wrote that, “We are disturbed by recent reports that outline a troubling trend of violent altercations” at the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Nor were they happy with reports of substandard living conditions and inadequate meals reported by Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana, who has for months criticized management of the state facility by a private company, Youth Services International.

Daly earlier this year asked FDLE to investigate the lockup, which houses more than 100 teenage boys in serious trouble with the law.

But that’s not enough, the representatives stated: Given a history of mismanagement by YSI, which last year lost a state contract to run a state substance abuse treatment center for juveniles in Santa Rosa County, and continued reports of trouble at the local facility, the four congressional reps asked DJJ “to suspend the operation of the facility pending the outcome” of the FDLE inquiry – and to investigate whether YSI is competent to run it.

Math used in Post’s Florida Lottery investigation published in journal

The Palm Beach Post, with the help of some top-notch mathematicians, used some pretty sophisticated math to uncover fraud within the Florida Lottery last year.

So sophisticated, in fact, that it’s been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Mathematics.

Much of the content in the paper, “Some people have all the luck,” reads like Greek unless you’re a mathematician. The paper, for example, relies partly on “log-concavity of the regularized Beta function, which lets us show that any local minimizer attains the global minimal value.”

You can bet a Post reporter didn’t write that.

Actually, it comes from three mathematicians and statisticians. When The Post started noticing some people winning the lottery at improbable rates – in some cases, more than 200 times – a reporter reached out to several mathematicians and statisticians for help answering a question: How much would someone have to spend to win the lottery so often?

Skip Garibaldi, a professor at Emory University and associate director of the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics at UCLA, and Philip B. Stark, professor and chairman of the Department of Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, graciously offered to answer it.

They also enlisted the help of Richard Arriata, a professor at the University of Southern California.

The trio found that the lucky winners would have to spend millions to have a 1-in-20-trillion chance of winning a couple hundred thousand dollars in prize money.

Nobody would be idiotic enough to spend millions to win a few hundred thousand. Even if they were, the odds would be astronomical.

Garibaldi compared the chances to picking out one star out of 50 Milky Way-sized galaxies, then having your friend pick the same star on the first try.

“It’s possible, it’s just utterly implausible,” Garibaldi said last year. “Quantum mechanics tells us all sorts of insane, unimaginable things could happen. Your desk could suddenly turn into a talking goose. There’s a calculable probability that that could happen. But it’s never going to happen.”

Armed with that information, along with some shoe-leather sleuthing, The Post confronted the Florida Lottery with its findings. Instead of admitting fraud within the system, lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell replied, “That’s what the lottery is all about. You can buy one ticket and you become a millionaire.”

But actually, the lottery had known for years that people were winning too often, The Post later found. They just chose to do nothing about it.

Some of the frequent winners, including the top one, were part of an underground market for winning lottery tickets, lottery investigators later found.

The winners would buy winning tickets from customers so the customers could avoid paying taxes, child support or other obligations. The lottery pulls those obligations out of the winnings.

The lottery later seized machines and supplies at multiple stores and installed several safeguards to prevent fraud. In all, it’s stopped more than 50 stores from continuing to sell lottery tickets.

Garibaldi also helped reporters at news organizations in 10 others states investigate their lotteries. They, too, found too-frequent winners.

 

Caught on tape: police shootings through the years

The news yesterday that a South Carolina deputy will face murder charges for shooting and killing an unarmed, fleeing man made some people wonder: What if it hadn’t been caught on tape?

The vast majority of shootings aren’t recorded, obviously. But since 2006, multiple officers have faced charges after their shootings were recorded by witnesses or dashboard cameras. Some of those cases are below. Other shootings caught on tape illustrate how quickly a situation can go from mundane to deadly, even if the officer doesn’t intend to shoot.

WARNING: These videos are graphic.

Airman shot by California deputy (2006)

Elio Carrion was an Air Force airman home from Iraq and riding in the passenger’s seat of a friend’s car that led police on a high-speed chase in 2009. The driver was pulled over by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy Ivory Webb, who had Carrion on the ground at gunpoint. The video showed Webb first telling Carrion to stay on the ground, then telling Carrion to get up. Carrion replied, “I’m going to get up,” but when he started to get up, Webb shot him three times.

Webb was charged with attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm, but a jury acquitted him. The county settled a lawsuit by Carrion for $1.5 million.

BART police shooting of Oscar Grant (2009)

Officers with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department were dispatched to a call of a fight on one of the BART trains. While detaining and handcuffing Oscar Grant, officer Johannes Mehserle stood up, allegedly to shock him with a Taser. But he pulled out his handgun instead and fired once, killing Grant.

A jury found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Ohio officer shoots unarmed motorcyclist (2009)

Michael McCloskey, Jr., was unarmed when Ottawa Hills, Ohio officer Thomas White pulled him over. While McCloskey was sitting calmly on his motorcycle (at the 3:30 mark in the video), White shot him in the back, leaving him paralyzed. White said he thought McCloskey was going for a gun.

The officer was convicted of felonious assault with a gun, but the conviction was overturned last year because of improper jury instructions.

South Carolina deputy shoots man reaching for his license (2014)

This was one of two high-profile shootings in South Carolina captured on video last year. Trooper Sean Groubert stopped Levar Jones in a gas station lot because the man wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Groubert asked Jones for his ID, and Jones patted himself and reached into his car to get it. But Groubert thought Jones was reaching for a gun and shot him.

Groubert was arrested and charged with assault and battery. He’s awaiting trial.

Officers shoot BB-gun wielding teen based on bad 911 call (2014)

John Crawford III, 22, was shopping at an Ohio Walmart and carrying a toy he’d taken off the store shelf: a BB gun that looked like a rifle. A shopper called 911 on him, saying Crawford was waving a gun around and pointing it at people. Store surveillance captured Crawford on the phone, BB gun at his side, when police arrived. Beavercreek police officers, based on the faulty information in the 911 call, shot him almost immediately.

The caller later backtracked from his statements to 911 dispatchers, saying Crawford wasn’t a threat.

Body camera captures Dallas police shooting mentally ill man wielding a screwdriver (2014)

Last year’s fatal shooting of a mentally ill man by a Dallas police officer was one of the first high-profile shootings to be captured on an officer’s body camera. Jason Harrison’s mom had called police for help hospitalizing her mentally ill son, Jason Harrison, 38. When two officers arrived, Harrison was holding a screwdriver and apparently lunged at the officers, prompting both officers to shoot and kill him.

Deputy sobs after shooting 70-year-old man (2014)

This shooting in York County, S.C., shows how officers can easily – and understandably –  perceive a harmless object to be a weapon, and how officers have trouble dealing with those decisions.

Deputy Terrance Knox pulled over 70-year-old Vietnam veteran Bobby Canipe for expired tags. Canipe, who apparently couldn’t hear the deputy yelling for his attention, reached into the truck and pulled out a long object, which Knox believed to be a rifle or shotgun. Knox yelled and fired multiple times, hitting Canipe in the hip. When he ran up to the wounded man, Knox realized the he had pulled out a cane, not a gun.

Later, at the 4:30 mark in the video, you can hear Knox sobbing and a fellow deputy consoling him.

 

The fishing pole, the snitch, the fake murder & the KKK guards

Thomas Newcomb
Thomas Newcomb

Reputed Ku Klux Klan Grand Cyclops Charles Thomas Newcomb had two vials of insulin, eight rounds of 9MM ammo wiped clean of prints, a fishing pole and a plan.

Talks recorded by an FBI informant outline why Newcomb, an ex-Florida prison guard, was arrested Thursday and charged with conspiring to murder a former inmate.

Also arrested were two other Florida state prison guards identified as KKK members: David Elliot Moran and Thomas Jordan Driver.

It was Driver who fought with the inmate and who was bitten by him.
He had the grudge.

Thomas Driver
Thomas Driver

Arrest affidavits released late Thursday, though, indicate that it was Newcomb who had the plan.

In Palatka, where the ex-inmate lived, Newcomb didn’t rule out going in “with guns blazing,” according to the informant.

But he had a quieter option.

“I see that fishing pole like he’s been fishing, and give him a couple of (insulin) shots, and sit there and wait on him, then we can kind of lay him so he’s tippled over into the water. And he can breathe in just a little bit of that water,” Newcomb is quoted as saying in a transcribed recording.

“If we go down the road, and that son of a gun is walking by himself and there’s nobody else around, it ain’t going to take nothing for us to just stop the car and put him in this car and take him somewhere.”

David Moran
David Moran

It might have gone down just that way. But the informant got to the FBI, the FBI got to the targeted victim and together they staged a gory murder scene. The informant took cell phone pictures of the murder to Newcomb, Moran and Driver.

In transcripts of recordings with the men, the informant asks “Is this what ya’ll wanted?”

“Yeah!” responds one. “Hell yeah!”

The FBI arrested all three Thursday morning. They face 30 years in state prison.

Moran and Driver are being fired, said a Florida Department of Corrections spokesman.

To read the source affidavit used here: NEWCOMB – AFFIDAVIT AW_Redacted

In prison, a death by peanut butter

PB sandwich
A freshly minted state memo on investigating “unnatural” state prison inmate deaths may not do certain dead and dying prisoners a lot of good.
The memo between the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) enables FDLE, not DOC, to investigate unnatural inmate deaths -think homicide, suicide- from here on out.
But that doesn’t appear to include deaths by accidents, and accidents are sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
Take Marvin Morris. It’s not clear whether he had mental problems, but it certainly looked that way in April 2013, when Morris crashed his head into a metal door at least once and ran wildly about an enclosed area, eventually falling to the concrete floor.
According to statements given to state investigators, guards waited until Morris was on the floor, unresponsive and dying, before entering the area.
Much was made of the fact that Morris was smuggling a peanut butter sandwich out of the chow hall at the time. And Morris’s elderly mother said she was told by DOC that her son had choked to death on the peanut butter.
His death is categorized as an accident.
There is much about this accident that FDLE would not have looked at under the new agreement with DOC: Would Morris have lived if guards intervened earlier to subdue him? If nurses had?
In fact, DOC investigators recommended criminal charges be brought against two health care workers in connection with Morris’s death.
That didn’t happen.
But Morris’s death, officially an accident, illustrates how possible criminal behavior could escape notice by FDLE, if its investigative scope is limited to homicides and suicides.
Of course, the vast majority of inmates dying in Florida prisons are dying from natural causes, not homicides, suicides or even accidents.
Then again, deaths from natural causes can be every bit as troubling, as some have been accompanied by gross misdiagnosis and maltreatment, including giving three dying inmates Tylenol and ibuprofen for their end-stage cancers.