Already arrested on a handful of patient brokering charges in October, addiction treatment center executive James Kigar is now facing a total of 95 separate criminal counts linked to cashing in on recovering addicts.
The spate of extra patient-brokering allegations were filed Dec. 20, according to court records, less than a week after a ninth arrest was made in connection with what prosecutors describe as a cash-for-patients scheme.
Kigar has pleaded not guilty, “and will continue to do so,” said his attorney, David Frankel.
Prosecutors say Kigar’s Whole Life Recovery center in Boynton Beach ginned up business by paying sober home operators to send him their residents for outpatient treatment. The payments were labeled as “case-management fees.”
Kigar had changed how payments were made to sober homes after Whole Life Recovery operator Christopher Hutson attended a meeting of State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s Sober Home Task Force. But Chief Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson, who heads the task force, emphasized as recently as September that any “bonus, rebate or kickback” to sober home operators was illegal — a third degree felony — no matter how it was structured.
The payments exist because an addict with good insurance can be worth big bucks. In addition to whatever the insurer will pay for treatment, urine drug tests used to detect the presence of drugs have been wildly lucrative.
Corner drug stores sell $25 tests that will immediately indicate the presence of a wide array of drugs.
But some treatment centers routinely ship urine samples to labs that perform more sophisticated, and far more expensive, testing. In some cases, just one test for one person could yield up to $5,000.
In Palm Beach County, the out-sized profits have spawned an interconnected network of sober homes, labs, treatment centers – and, say prosecutors, fraud.
The Post found in 2015 that sober homes have paid “junkie hunters” to find insured addicts. Addicts would be enticed to live in sober homes with offers of free rent, as long as they attended treatment — and submitted to drug testing. Labs owned by the sober homes could then do the tests, and collect the cash. In other cases, sober home operators would be the junkie hunters, paid by treatment centers for a steady supply of addicts seeking help.
In addition to brokering charges brought against Kigar and Hutson, a convicted felon and Whole Life’s operations consultant, the list of those charged in connection with referrals to Kigar’s Whole Life reads like a sober home directory.
John Dudek, co-owner of Southern Palm Oasis sober home, was charged with six counts of patient brokering after police say he accepted weekly checks from Whole Life, ranging from $500 to more than $1,000. In Lake Worth, Ehab Iskander, who worked at Integrity House sober home, was also charged with a half dozen counts of patient brokering. Alex Vandervert, who owns Saje House sober home in Lake Worth, faces charges in the case; so does Howard James Fowler Jr., who is affiliated with Anchorage Sober Living. Brothers Bryan and Patrick Norquist of The Halfway House sober home in Delray Beach each face 16 counts of patient brokering.
Read The Post’s coverage of sober homes here
And 25-year-old Amanda LaFrance, who started Saved by Grace Recovery sober home in Delray, is facing 13 counts of patient brokering.
LaFrance had moved to South Florida, her mother said, to shake her drug addiction.
What The Post Found
The addiction treatment industry, Palm Beach County’s fourth largest, is fraught with corruption and fraud.It was all built on urine testing and now, police are charging owners and operators with patient brokering.