Doctor in Kenny Chatman case gets 4-year prison sentence


The last holdout in the notorious Kenny Chatman drug-treatment fraud case was sentenced Tuesday to four years in federal prison, short of the time prosecutors sought.

Dr. Joaquin Mendez was the medical director for Chatman’s Reflections Treatment Center in Margate between September 2014 and September 2015, responsible for seeing patients and deciding their medical care.

But he admitted that he was a doctor in name only, collecting $2,500 a month from Chatman to sign doctors’ orders without seeing patients.

In a courtroom packed with Mendez’ family, friends and former patients, prosecutors and Mendez’ lawyers debated whether one year of bad actions should overshadow an otherwise fine career.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña blasted Mendez, saying that his actions were instrumental in helping Chatman bill insurance companies millions for fraudulent testing. Chatman is serving 27 years in prison on those charges and for forcing female patients into prostitution.

“This was a health-care fraud scheme that was one of the most cruel and calculating I’ve seen in my 17 years (as a prosecutor),” she said.

Mendez should have known that the facility’s patients were failing their drug tests, and that Chatman was supplying them drugs. But he saw himself as working for Chatman, not his patients, Villafaña said.

“I don’t think he saw those young people as his patients,” she said.

Mendez’ lawyers gave U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks a video with testimonials from Mendez and his former patients.

But both Villafaña and Middlebrooks wondered why there was no mention of his victims in the video.

“It was like he was leading two different lives,” she said: Devoted father in one life, “fraudster” in the other.

She wanted him to serve at least five years and nine months behind bars, and she objected to the judge’s sentence.

Mendez’ lawyer, Richard Lubin, said that such a sentence would be too harsh. Mendez was going through a rough period that year, with his mother, sister-in-law and friend all dying, he said.

And Mendez quit when he saw that Chatman was forging his signature on medical forms, Lubin said.

On top of that, he will lose his medical license, and he’s been “disgraced in the eyes of the community.”

Middlebrooks said he was moved by the testimony of so many people who vouched for Mendez’ career in medicine.

“I was struck by the number of doctors, former patients and employees,” he said.

Before handing down his sentence, Middlebrooks gave Mendez the last word.

The doctor, in a dark suit and square glasses, apologized to the court, the government, his friends and family.

He did not mention his victims.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

'Tide Pod Challenge' causes some retailers to lock up product
'Tide Pod Challenge' causes some retailers to lock up product

The viral challenge that involves people filming themselves biting into laundry detergent pods is causing some retailers to take security measures to prevent people from shoplifting the product, WTSP reported. The so-called Tide Pod Challenge has prompted a warning from U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which said ingesting the pods...
WATCH: Florida man steals exotic fish, stuffs them down his pants
WATCH: Florida man steals exotic fish, stuffs them down his pants

A Florida man is accused of stealing exotic fish from a pet store by stuffing them down his pants.  Cruz Orlando Garcia Jr., of Largo, entered Pet Safari in Clearwater on Jan. 9 with his alleged accomplice, Crystal Dixon. Dixon distracted the store clerk while Garcia Jr. stole Electric Blue Acaras and Blue Ram Cichlids, police told WFLA....
Sessions interviewed by Mueller team as part of Russia probe, report says
Sessions interviewed by Mueller team as part of Russia probe, report says

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed last week by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office as part of the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign team, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Shooting reported at Kentucky high school
Shooting reported at Kentucky high school

Authorities responded Tuesday morning to reports of a shooting at a high school in Kentucky, according to multiple reports. 
NEW: Child lured to Greenacres apartment, sexually battered, PBSO says
NEW: Child lured to Greenacres apartment, sexually battered, PBSO says

Nearly a year after he reportedly forced a 13-year-old into a Greenacres-area apartment and inappropriately touched the young teen, Markendel Alexis has been arrested on sexual battery and kidnapping charges. Alexis, 22, was booked Friday evening into the Palm Beach County Jail, where he is being held without the possibility of posting bond. A judge...
More Stories