Third sober-home official arrested on patient-brokering charge


Click for complete sober homes coverageThe Sober Home Task Force’s crackdown on patient brokering in the drug treatment industry continued Friday with the arrest of Patrick Norquist — whose younger brother was arrested a day earlier on the same charges.

The older brother was held overnight without bond at the Palm Beach County Detention Center until his attorney, Jacob Cohen, assured the prosecutor and judge that the money Norquist would use for bail had not come from illegal activities.

Like his younger brother, Norquist faces 16 charges of patient brokering. He is expected to be released after posting a $48,000 bond this afternoon, Cohen said. The younger Norquist bonded out after his arrest Thursday.

A third man, John Dudek, 55, of Delray Beach has also been charged with receiving kickbacks for brokering sober home patients to Whole Life Recovery.

Patrick Norquist’s arrest affidavit was not available Saturday. However, his brother’s arrest affidavit lays out the brothers’ business deals with Whole Life Recovery, a treatment center in Boynton Beach, and states there is enough evidence to arrest both on 16 counts of patient brokering.

According to the arrest report, Patrick Norquist signed a patient referral contract with Whole Life Recovery in April 2016. Under the agreement, the brothers agreed to refer clients from their sober home, The Halfway House Inc., at 135 NW 1st Ave. in Delray Beach, in exchange for a fee.

The contracts, called case-management agreements, are commonly used by treatment facilities to circumvent Florida’s patient brokering law, according to the police report. That law makes it illegal to “offer or pay any commission, bonus, rebate, kickback or bribe” in order to persuade patients to go to a particular health-care provider.

For every client with insurance who was referred, the Norquists received weekly payments as long as the clients attended therapy. Between April and August, the brothers and their companies received $30,000 in kickbacks.

The checks were signed by James Kigar, an owner of Whole Life Recovery. Kigar was arrested Oct. 25 on charges of patient brokering. Christopher Hutson, an operator at Whole Life Recovery, was also arrested and charged with patient brokering.

Dudek, owner of Southern Palm Oasis sober home at 3936 Lowson Blvd. in Delray Beach, had a similar case-management agreement with Whole Life Recovery. Dudek was charged with six counts of patient brokering, one count for each client he referred to Whole Life Recovery.

Drug-treatment centers make millions of dollars from the urine of drug addicts. As part of their treatment programs, many test the urine of recovering addicts at least three times a week.

Insurance companies pay at least $1,000 for each test, making each addict worth at least $12,000 a month in urine tests. The treatment centers also bill for therapy, which can bring in thousands of dollars more.

The arrests have unnerved marketers and sober-home operators, who have made millions of dollars brokering insured addicts to treatment providers. The better the addict’s insurance coverage, the higher the kickback.

MORE ONLINE: Read The Post’s complete coverage of Palm Beach County’s sober-home industry.

Young addicts still covered under their parents’ insurance plans are the most sought after and are referred to as “thoroughbreds.” Their insurance cards are dubbed “black cards” — after the exclusive American Express black card which has no preset spending limit.

The practice of treatment centers paying case-management fees to marketers and sober home operators has become so widespread that many within the industry do not know that patient brokering is illegal.

Attorneys for some treatment providers and sober homes say the law is vague and claim to have drafted contracts that keep providers inside the law. However, Chief Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson, who heads the Sober Home Task Force, disagrees.

“Patient inducements such as cigarettes, gift cards, Xboxes, gym memberships, clothes, shoes, rent or rent subsidies and free plane tickets are illegal,” Johnson said during a news conference in September. “Cash or other form of compensation to sober homes, brokers, marketers or patients, either offered or accepted, in return for the referral of patients to a treatment facility or recovery residence, is illegal.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Thinking of cheating? These FAU students sell tools to stop it
Thinking of cheating? These FAU students sell tools to stop it

A pair of Florida Atlantic University business school grads who once bemoaned the ease of cheating on online tests have jumped into the increasingly competitive world of high-tech proctoring with a twist, a patent and a mentor with big credentials in the electronics of education. Their first clients (though not their only ones): FAU business professors...
Ohio thief caught after leaving wallet at scene of crime
Ohio thief caught after leaving wallet at scene of crime

A thief in Ohio unwittingly turned himself in after leaving his wallet behind after leaving a Dayton store. Police said they were dispatched to Dollar General in Dayton around 8 a.m. Saturday, and found a wallet left behind by one of the suspects. Police found several items with the suspect’s name on them, including a photo ID.  The...
A-ha's stripped down version of ‘Take On Me’ is hauntingly beautiful
A-ha's stripped down version of ‘Take On Me’ is hauntingly beautiful

“Take On Me” by A-ha is one of the 1980s’ most remembered songs, not only for its fast-paced beat but also because of that iconic video, which featured a pencil-sketch animation theme (called rotoscoping) and live action featuring lead singer Morten Harket and his then-girlfriend, actress Bunty Bailey. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard...
5 former presidents appear at hurricane relief concert
5 former presidents appear at hurricane relief concert

All five living former Presidents appeared together for the first time since 2013 on Saturday, as they appeared at a benefit concert in Texas to raise money for hurricane relief efforts, CNN reported. Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama attended “Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal&rdquo...
Air Force may recall up to 1,000 retired pilots
Air Force may recall up to 1,000 retired pilots

The U.S. Air Force may recall as many as 1,000 retired military pilots to active duty because of an executive order signed Friday by President Donald Trump,  ABC News reported. By law, only 25 retired pilots can be recalled through voluntary programs to serve in any one branch of military service, but Trump’s executive order removes...
More Stories