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.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Is saga done? Judge denies bond, Dalia Dippolito heading to prison
Is saga done? Judge denies bond, Dalia Dippolito heading to prison

After eight years, three trials, two sentences and at least one book in the case that sparked both a reality television show and a reality television show defense, the saga of Dalia Dippolito’s 2009 caught-on-camera plot to murder her husband could finally be over. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley in a scathing 24-page ruling on Wednesday...
Dalia Dippolito headed to prison after judge denies appeal bond
Dalia Dippolito headed to prison after judge denies appeal bond

All hope of a prison reprieve for former Boynton Beach newlywed Dalia Dippolito vanished Wednesday afternoon, when a judge denied her request for freedom as she appeals her conviction in the 2009 caught-on-camera plot to have her husband murdered. With a scathing 24-page ruling, Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley on Wednesday closed — possibly for good...
PBC students can watch Monday’s eclipse, but only for 3 minutes, district says
PBC students can watch Monday’s eclipse, but only for 3 minutes, district says

File photo Palm Beach County’s public schools will allow students to view Monday’s solar eclipse with special protective glasses, but the viewing time will be limited to three minutes and students must get parents to sign a permission slip beforehand. The schools will consider any absences and early departures Monday to be excused...
More than 20 arrested for public sex, nudity on Martin County beaches
More than 20 arrested for public sex, nudity on Martin County beaches

More than 20 people have been arrested for allegedly having sex on at least two Martin County beaches recently, according to the sheriff’s office. For two months, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office conducted “Operation Mangroves ” after multiple complaints of “lewd behavior” at Joe’s River Park, south Jensen...
Civil War icons: Honored relics or trouble makers?
Civil War icons: Honored relics or trouble makers?

Shaun Mosier of Loxahatchee says will keep displaying his two Confederate flags — along with his American flag — on his pickup truck. “I’m not doing it to taunt anyone,” he emphasized. “The Confederate flag is a part of of our history. We should honor it,” said Mosier, 31, a Loxahatchee...
More Stories