breaking news

Robert Mueller subpoenas Steve Bannon in Russia probe

Feds: Delray rehab owner arrested, billed $58 million for urine tests


Eric Snyder, owner and operator of a Delray Beach drug treatment center and sober home raided by the FBI in December 2014, has been arrested and charged with fraudulently billing insurance companies for $58.2 million over nearly five years, according to court records.

Snyder, 30, and Christopher Fuller, 32, described in a 26-page federal complaint as a “junkie hunter” hired by Snyder, were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The document described how Snyder bribed patients with airline tickets, cash, rent and visits to strip clubs. Fuller trolled AA meetings and “crack” motels to find patients, the complaint said.

Snyder was arrested on Tuesday and released on $250,000 bond. Bond was set at $200,000 for Fuller, represented by the federal public defender. Snyder’s next appearance in court is set for Aug. 1.

Snyder’s attorney Bruce Zimet said, “There’s no question he was involved in an industry that was involved in insurance fraud and corruption.” However, Snyder did not “intentionally” participate in fraud, he added.

“Eric has personally been involved in saving many, many lives and making a difference in many other lives of those suffering from addiction,” Zimet said.

Snyder is one of the many drug treatment operators exposed in a 2-1/2 year-long Palm Beach Post investigation that revealed the profits to be made from urine-screening in the county’s thriving but corrupt sober home industry.

Snyder’s treatment center, Real Life Recovery, and sober home, Halfway There, raked in more than $18 million from the $58.2 million in fraudulent claims to insurance companies, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Aetna, Cigna and Humana for urine drug tests and “bogus” treatment, according to court documents.

“Urine analysis was fraudulently used as a profit-machine … including double billing for the same patients and splitting samples to maximize revenue,” the complaint said.

The profits have attracted the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. In March, the IRS filed a lien, saying Snyder owed $2 million in back income taxes.

Musclebound millionaire: The Palm Beach Post’s story on Eric Snyder

Snyder, a drug addict, came to Florida from New Jersey in August 2009 for treatment. In September 2010 — with about a year clean and sober — he started his first sober home business. His posts to his Facebook page changed from inspirational 12-Step affirmations and his devotion to sobriety to photos of himself with fistfuls of cash, pricey jewelry, fast cars and new tattoos.

Complaints of widespread insurance fraud in the industry prompted state and federal law enforcement agencies to launch a task force. On Sept. 11, 2014, agents from the FBI and the state’s division of insurance fraud raided a West Palm Beach sober living complex and treatment center called Good Decisions Sober Living.

Two weeks later, FBI agents in Miami received an email from the then-director of operations for Snyder’s treatment center with the subject line, “South Florida drug rehab insurance frauds.”

FBI agents met several times with the director before he or she left Snyder’s company, according to the complaint against Snyder. The person, who isn’t named in the complaint, told agents that Real Life Recovery was billing patients for services they never received.

If a patient was discharged on the first of the month, for example, Real Life Recovery continued billing the patients through the end of the month, according to the complaint.

In one case, Real Life Recovery billed a patient’s insurance company more than $3,200 for two days in 2013. But the patient told investigators he did not attend treatment on those days because he was in jail.

Agents interviewed other Real Life Recovery employees, who alleged a variety of fraud.

  • An employee who handled billing for Real Life Recovery told agents that Snyder fired him or her after the employee complained that signatures on treatment session sign-in sheets were being forged.
  • A therapist said Snyder fraudulently created patient charts and backdated them before being audited.
  • The facility’s clinical director said they were asked to sign notes for patient therapy sessions that never happened.

Other allegations in the complaint are commonplace in South Florida’s widely corrupt drug treatment industry, as described in Post stories in August 2015. Snyder offered discounts on rent for patients who attended intensive outpatient therapy sessions. Rent was normally $200 per week at his sober homes, but if patients went to therapy three times per week, it was $100. If patients went five times per week, rent was free.

But billing insurance companies for treatment and drug testing brought in millions of dollars. One former employee told FBI agents that Snyder said he would rather “eat (pay) $200 in order to make $5,000.”

Snyder paid his patients $200 for every new patient they referred to Real Life Recovery. Snyder paid Fuller to find patients by visiting “crack” motels and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, the complaint stated.

Once he found them, Fuller bribed them with alcohol or drugs to get them to go to Snyder’s facilities, confidential witnesses told FBI agents. Fuller also bribed motel owners and receptionists to call him whenever they suspected an addict was checking into their motel. The motels named in the complaint were the Homing Inn in Boynton Beach and the Budget Inn on Federal Highway in Delray Beach as well as Southgate in Delray.

Kirit Shah, manager of the Homing Inn, denied accepting payments for referrals: “We never had a penny given from anybody.” Operators of the Budget Inn and Southgate did not return calls for comment.

Snyder kept Fuller off the books as an “independent contractor.” Agents found that Real Life Recovery’s Wells Fargo account had paid Fuller or his company, Surrender and Survive Inc., more than $17,000.

According to his Facebook page, Fuller is a group facilitator and behavioral health technician at Royal Life Centers, a Delray Beach-based treatment center. Calls and a message to the facility were not returned.

This is not Fuller’s first run-in with the law.

Jail records show he’s been arrested 19 times since 2003, mostly on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and domestic violence.

In 2012, Boynton Beach police arrested him on charges of prostituting women. He told police he would drive them as far south as Miami to meet men, according to his arrest report.

He was sentenced to 90 days in jail.

In 2013, he was arrested again by Boynton Beach police on domestic battery charges after punching his sister in the head. He was again sentenced to 90 days in jail.

In the federal complaint filed against Fuller this week, the mother of one patient said Fuller demanded he send her $1,400 before he would send her child into treatment. Real Life Recovery staff later dropped the patient off at the Homing Inn, where the patient overdosed and died.

In a separate case, Myra Cronin, whose 20-year-old daughter, Nicole, died in a shabby motel room where staff at Halfway There allegedly dropped her off in the middle of the night, cried when she learned of Snyder’s arrest on Wednesday.

“This is a small justice for Nicole,” said Cronin, who has filed a lawsuit against Snyder and his companies. “Shame on him and thank God they have taken some action.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

NEW: Florida boy, 6, dies of rabies infection from bat scratch
NEW: Florida boy, 6, dies of rabies infection from bat scratch

A 6-year-old boy in Central Florida who was scratched by a bat died at a local hospital on Sunday.  According to WESH, Ryker Roque contracted the virus when he went to touch a sick bat that his father had rescued in Eustis, Fla.  "I had asked my son, 'Don't touch it under any circumstance. Don't touch it until I find out more about...
TO-DO LIST: Comedy in Wellington, South Florida Fair parades
TO-DO LIST: Comedy in Wellington, South Florida Fair parades

Looking for some fun this week? Check out these events. 1. Comedy Night. The popular Comedy Night series returns to The Grille, 12300 South Shore Blvd., Wellington, this Saturday night. Guests can enjoy a three-course dinner before the show for $39 per person, or enjoy just the show for $10 general admission, plus two drinks minimum per person. This...
NEW: Wellington event raises $40K for Virgin Islands hurricane relief
NEW: Wellington event raises $40K for Virgin Islands hurricane relief

A fundraiser last week in Wellington brought in some big money for hurricane relief in the British Virgin Islands. The Thursday event was co-hosted by Palm Beach Travel, the British Virgin Islands Tourism Board, Lamborghini and The Moorings. More than 50 guests packed the International Polo Club Palm Beach and raised $40,000 to help recovery efforts...
NEW: Greenacres-area man, 53, accused of molesting kids at sleepover
NEW: Greenacres-area man, 53, accused of molesting kids at sleepover

A 53-year-old man is accused of molesting three children who were spending the night at his Greenacres-area home some time last year, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office records state. The children, who were 14, 12 and 10 when they spoke with sheriff’s authorities in February, said Cary Anderson inappropriately touched them while they slept...
Lack of sunlight may cause winter weight gain, research suggests
Lack of sunlight may cause winter weight gain, research suggests

We often blame our added winter pounds on the holidays. All the gatherings of family and friends combined with good food, often take the toll on our waistlines. But if you're one of the many who laments adding a few pounds in December, it may not actually be entirely due to changes in your diet. In fact, new research suggests that a lack of sunlight...
More Stories