New charges in Kenny Chatman case: Evidence “massive”

 

New charges have been filed against a doctor who worked for Kenneth Chatman’s notorious sober home operation, where women addicts were prostituted, held against their will and allowed to continue using drugs, according to court records.

The new charges against Dr. Joaquin Mendez include conspiracy to commit health care fraud, giving a false statement relating to health-care fraud and money laundering.

Another doctor charged in the case, Dr. Donald Willems, is expected to appear in federal court this afternoon. Federal prosecutors want Willems bond revoked. They say he continued to work in a drug treatment center and continued prescribing drugs he was not authorized to prescribe – activities prohibited as a condition of his bond.IMG_0237.PNG

Mendez is one of two doctors charged with ordering unnecessary urine drug tests for addicts enrolled in Chatman’s treatment centers, Reflections and Journey.

Chatman and several alleged co-conspirators also operated numerous sober homes, including Stay’n Alive, Redemption Sober House and Total Recovery Sober Living, and an unnamed facility at 962 W. 43rd St., West Palm Beach.

All the facilities were in business to provide safe and drug-free residences for people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, an industry fueled by a nationwide heroin epidemic.

But federal prosecutors, who have been investigating the industry in South Florida for more than two years, say they were more akin to fraud machines that engaged in human trafficking.

Three of the seven charged in the case have pleaded guilty. Court papers filed be a federal prosecutor say Chatman and his wife, Laura, also plan to plead guilty.

Dr. Mendez wants a trial, according to court papers.

Mendez attorney recently filed court papers asking for more time to prepare for trial, citing a “massive” amount of records accumulated as part of Operation Thoroughbred – the name of the federal task force investigating corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry.

Richard Lubin, a veteran attorney with a career full of high-profile cases, wrote in court papers that the amount of evidence against his client is more than he has seen in 42-years of practice.

How much evidence?

326 gigabytes of digital records copied onto an encrypted hard drive.
236,245 digital files organized into 8,307 folders.
16,064 records in 133 files of patient data
1,719 patient case files with as many as 600 pages in each file.
30 FBI taped interviews
225 boxes of paper documents that prosecutors say will take 6-8 weeks to copy

All the facilities were in business to provide safe and drug-free residences for people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, an industry fueled by a nationwide heroin epidemic.

But federal prosecutors, who have been investigating the industry in South Florida for more than two years, say they were more akin to fraud machines that engaged in human trafficking. These are the first charges to be filed from the federal probe.

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.