First woman arrested in sober home crackdown

BREAKING: Amanda LaFrance, 25, came to Florida three years ago to get clean and found herself in court on Saturday facing 13 counts of brokering other addicts with insurance to Whole Life Recovery, a treatment center in Boynton Beach whose owner and operator faces charges of paying kickbacks for clients.lafrance-mugshot

LaFrance is also the first woman to be charged in the Sober Home Task Force’s crackdown on patient brokering in the sober home business. All eight arrests stem from the business practices Whole Life Recovery.

According to the arrest affidavit, LaFrance deposited $6,750 in 13 checks from Whole Life Recovery for case management services. Deon Hill, her business partner and father of her 6-month-old daughter, deposited a check for $525 from the treatment center.

>> Read more: Addiction Treatment – Inside the gold rush << 

Hill, 50, has not been charged but is currently being held without bond at the Palm Beach County Detention Center on an unrelated armed robbery charge.

LaFrance’s public defender asked that LaFrance be released on her own recognizance or supervised release because she has no criminal history. Her mother, Lorraine Rucki, asked that she be allowed to take her daughter back to New Jersey for treatment or to place her in detox in Palm Beach county.

Assistant State Attorney Justin Chapman argued that LaFrance should be held on the recommended bail:  $39,000 – $3,000 for each of the 13 counts.

“We are dealing with a very vulnerable population,” Chapman said. “They are being herded like cattle basically.”

However, she will remain in jail until she can prove that the money that would be used to post her bail did not come from illegal activities.

LaFrance’s monther, Lorraine Rucki, testified that her daughter relapsed, is homeless, has no job and is already experience withdrawal symptoms in jail.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who created the task force in July with $275,000 from the legislature, said there will be more arrests.

“The heroin crisis is fueled by bad actors in the treatment industry,” Aronberg said. “Our task force will continue to target sober homes that violate Florida Law and jeopardize their residents safety.”

MORE DETAILS TO FOLLOW.

 

 

Buzzfeed probe of sober homes cites Post investigation

Corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry grabbed headlines on the web on Saturday with an in-depth story by Buzzfeed News – the online news and entertainment giant.Spoon sig

The article chronicled recovering addicts victimized in some of the scams uncovered in the Palm Beach Post’s 8-month investigation. By linking to several Post stories, the Buzzfeed article – “Addicts for Sale” – explained how addicts with insurance are bought and sold by “marketers,” “body brokers” and “junkie hunters” who work for sober homes.

The story focused on Delray Beach, where hundreds of sober homes and outpatient treatment program are the focus of a 2-year-investigation by and FBI task force. Investigators raided two sober homes. However, no charges have been filed.

Besides patient brokering, authorities are investigating insurance fraud resulting from unnecessary urine drug tests and kickbacks paid to addicts, sober home operators, outpatient treatment programs and labs – all who need addict’s urine to continue billing insurance companies.

 

UPDATED: 15 questions addicts should ask to find a safe halfway house

These 15 questions will help you avoid being the victim of insurance fraud and patient brokering in a halfway house.

Picking a sober home: What to ask

More than two dozen sober home operators have been arrested since October 2016 and charged with accepting and paying kickbacks to enroll insured addicts living in sober homes to specific treatment centers. Asking these 15 questions will help you determine if a sober home is doing business legally and offers the best accommodations for recovery. 

1. Are you certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences? FARR certifies sober homes that meet 38 standards for recovery, housing, administration, training, finance and good-neighbor practices. Certified homes can be found at farronline.org.

2. Is the residence coed? Experts agree that newly recovered addicts, especially women, are vulnerable. Dating and relationships in early sobriety can take the focus off recovery.

3.What will happen if I relapse? FARR recommends that sober homes devise individual relapse protocols that include contacts and alternative housing arrangements.

4. Have there been any overdoses or deaths? Is staff trained in CPR?

5. How often do you drug test? Are tests random? What kind of tests? How much do they cost?

Here’s how the fraud works

6. Do you bill insurance? Sober homes are not licensed to offer medical care and cannot bill insurance for services, including rent.

7. How much is rent? How is it paid? What is included in rent? What is the refund policy? Are there rules about pocket change and money transfers? Experts warn insured residents to be leery of free rent, gift cards, cellphones, gym memberships and other inducements if linked to attendance at an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or the provision of urine samples.

8. Do you have an ownership interest or receive referral fees from an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or lab? Such kickbacks, often disguised as “case management fees” are illegal under Florida’s patient brokering law. 

9. Have there been any complaints filed against the sober home or its employees, including code violations?

10. How much training, education and clean time do you require of employees, including house managers?

11. Are properties and vehicles that transport clients insured? Are clients allowed to drive vehicles?

12. Are there 12-step meetings on property? Do you provide transportation to meetings? The grocery store? Is there public transportation within walking distance?

13. What are your policies regarding guests and furloughs?

14. What is your cellphone policy?

15. What is the maximum occupancy? How many to a room? How many bathrooms?

Read more of the Post’s coverage of corruption in the drug treatment industry.