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Sober Home Task Force makes 26th arrest - takes aim at labs

After six weeks without an arrest, the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force roared back into action on Thursday, making four arrests in 24 hours and expanding its investigation into business practices of labs that perform costly urine drug tests.

The new arrests — plus additional charges against a prior arrestee — bring the total arrests by the task force to 26 and also mark the first time the state’s patient brokering statute has been used to prosecute lab owners, said Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg at a press conference on Thursday. The crimes are third-degree felonies and carry a five-year maximum prison sentence.

“You cannot clean up the industry without cleaning up the labs,” Aronberg said. However, bringing cases against labs is more difficult and time consuming. Unlike patient brokers who get kickbacks for simply enrolling insured addicts in treatment centers, labs have more sophisticated business models, Aronberg said.

“They’re not going to be able to hide between their accountants and lawyers,” Aronberg said.

The urine of drug addicts with insurance is worth millions of dollars to the operators of labs, sober homes and treatment centers.

Palm Beach Post investigation found that insurance companies often are billed as much as $5,000 for a single urine drug screen. Although insurance companies pay a fraction of that — between $1,500 and $2,000 — with addicts tested three or more times a week, the profits add up fast.

To ensure a steady supply of urine, some operators of labs and intensive outpatient programs that collect urine samples for complex drug tests are suspected of paying kickbacks to the owners of sober homes, where addicts live while getting clean.

Three of the new arrests stem from business operations at Chapters Recovery, which also did business as Good Future Recovery. In December the Sober Home Task Force raided the business, carrying away boxes of documents and computers.

In March, 93 counts of patient brokering were filed against Daniel Kandler, one of the owners of Chapters. The two other owners, David Remland, and Mark Desimone were arrested on Thursday and charged with patient brokering. Additional patient brokering charges were filed against Kandler on Thursday.

According to police reports, Kandler is the owner of Impact Q Testing, a laboratory adjacent to Chapters on West Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. Police reports say that Kandler — along with Remland and Desimone — made payments to James Tomasso and others for urine samples from addicts at various treatment centers.

Tomasso was arrested in February on charges of patient brokering. He told investigators that Kandler paid him $150,000 to bring urine samples to Impact Q Testing.

Also arrested on Thursday was Dickie Taylor Dreher, charged with nine counts of patient brokering for accepting kickbacks from Tomasso for enrolling clients in Tomasso’s treatment centers, according to police reports.

Kandler, Remland and Desimone paid themselves well. Bank records seized by investigators revealed Impact Q Testing paid the partners nearly $2 million between August of 2016 and February.

Aronberg said more arrests are on the way and that the Task Force would be able to continue its investigations because the legislature allocated $300,000 in this year’s budget — a bump from the $275,000 lawmakers gave Aronberg last year to create the task force.

Aronberg said the money will enable him to increase the size of the task force to 10 full-time investigators, three prosecutors and a full-time analyst.

“We believe we are still closer to the beginning than the end,” said Aronberg, adding that more arrests will be made. “We’re coming for you.”

Staff writers Eliot Kleinberg and Jorge Milian contributed to this story.

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