Drug-treatment operator Kenneth Chatman expected to plead guilty


Kenneth Chatman, the accused operator of a notorious drug-treatment business who allegedly pimped out female addicts, is expected to plead guilty in a federal case that accuses him of money laundering, health care fraud and sex trafficking, recently filed court records show.

The documents also reveal that investigators recorded more than 100 phone calls Chatman has made in jail since his arrest in December. Other evidence against Chatman includes nine video recordings and 30 audio recordings of “controlled calls” — calls in which detectives set up and record a call between a victim and the accused.

MORE ONLINE: Read the Post’s complete coverage of the sober home industry.

Complaints about Chatman’s treatment center, Reflections in Margate, and sober homes were brought to law enforcement in piecemeal fashion as early as 2014 and exposed in a Palm Beach Post investigation in December 2015. A year later, a federal task force arrested Chatman, his wife Laura, two doctors and three others.

The federal indictments claim Chatman made a fortune by taking advantage of addicts and their insurance companies. He turned female patients into prostitutes, it said. He paid kickbacks to five laboratories — in South and Central Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania — to get them to test bogus urine samples, investigators wrote.

In court documents filed Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafana said she intended to add more charges and make more arrests before the next court hearing on March 15. She also noted that Chatman and his wife planned to plead guilty.

Chatman’s attorney, Saam Zangeneh, declined to confirm that a plea bargain had or would be reached but said Villafana’s documents were filed “in good faith.”

Three others arrested have pleaded guilty:

  • Stefan Gatt, a 27-year-old body-builder and fitness model who worked at a medical lab in Boca Raton, pleaded guilty Feb. 6 to conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Gatt had paid kickbacks so the laboratory would be allowed to test hundreds of phony saliva samples that insurers were told were from patients at Chatman’s treatment center.
  • Michael Bonds, owner of Redemption sober homes in Delray Beach on Feb. 7 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud for accepting $240,000 in kickbacks from Chatman to send roughly 60 insured residents of his sober homes to Reflections.
  • Fransesia Davis, 44, allowed Chatman to use her name on ownership documents for Total Recovery Sober Living, a sober home in West Palm Beach. She then offered free and reduced rent to persuade residents with insurance to attend Chatman’s treatment programs. Davis also forged patients’ attendance records and submitted her own urine or saliva for drug tests when insurance patients were absent. She pleaded guilty Feb. 15 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and knowingly allowing drug sales at her sober home.

Dr. Joaqin Mendez said it is too early to determine whether he will accept a guilty plea, according to court records. Both Mendez and Dr. Donald Willems, who worked at Reflections, are accused of ordering drug tests and other procedures that were not medically necessary.

Willems, also is not likely to plead guilty, the court filing said. He is charged with using the credentials of other doctors to prescribe opioids and other drugs that he was not licensed to prescribe.

The indictments are the first from a federal task force called Operation Thoroughbred, which has been investigating corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry. The federal task force is working with the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force.

The county task force, assembled by Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg, has made 15 arrests since October for patient brokering and forgery, not counting the arrests by the federal task force.



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