Sober Home Task Force score: One-fourth already have pleaded guilty


In the past eight months, the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force has arrested and charged 28 owners and operators of drug treatment centers and sober homes with buying and selling insured addicts.

Already, seven have pleaded guilty. Court records of these cases reveal prosecutors’ strategy: Allow defendants to avoid felony convictions if they agree to expose other bad operators and testify against them. If they successfully complete between 18 and 36 months of probation, they will have no felony record.

»Latest stories on sober homes and addiction treatment

The strategy appears to be working. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who created the task force, has promised more arrests.

“We’re closer to the beginning than the end,” Aronberg said of the investigation by the task force, which includes police, inspectors and agents from a dozen state and federal agencies. While the task force works on more arrests, Aronberg’s prosecutors are now faced with taking those already arrested to court.

»How the scams work 

Many of those who have not pleaded are treatment center owners and other major players — some facing dozens of counts of patient brokering. Some have hired heavy-hitting, high-priced lawyers. It is not yet known how many of those cases — if any — will proceed to trial.

To convict a treatment provider of patient brokering, prosecutors must prove that the provider offered or paid “any commission, bonus, rebate, kickback, or bribe, directly or indirectly, in cash or in kind,” for the referral of patients. Those who participate in patient-brokering schemes are guilty of a slightly different charge: aiding patient brokering. Patient brokering is a third-degree felony. Aiding patient brokering is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Twenty-two of the arrests so far stem from alleged patient brokering at two Palm Beach County treatment centers: Whole Life Recovery and Chapters Recovery, formerly known as Good Future Recovery. The list below groups those arrested by their affiliated treatment center. Information used to compile this list comes from police and court records.

Whole Life Recovery

James Kigar

Arrested Oct. 25 on 95 counts of patient brokering.

Kigar, 56, of Boca Raton, was the first person arrested by the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force. As owner of Whole Life Recovery Treatment Center in Boynton Beach, prosecutors say Kigar ginned up business by paying sober home operators to send him their residents for outpatient treatment. The payments were labeled as “case-management fees.”

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

»Boynton Beach addiction treatment center’s CEO and operator arrested 

Christopher Hutson

Arrested Oct. 25 on six counts of patient brokering.

Hutson, 37, of West Palm Beach, worked at Kigar’s Whole Life Recovery Treatment Center, where he handled payments and contracts with patient brokers, according to a police report. Hutson’s criminal record includes a 2012 conviction for fraud for his role in a $40 million pill mill empire operated by Wellington brothers Christopher and Jeff George. According to court records, Hutson ran an illegal internet steroid business and sold steroids on behalf of Jeff George.

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

»Sober home task force arrests two Boynton Beach operators

Bryan Norquist and Patrick Norquist

Arrested Nov. 17 and Nov. 18 on 16 counts of aiding patient brokering. Prosecutors are pursuing 7 counts against Eric and 12 counts against Patrick.

Norquist, 26, of Boynton Beach and his brother Patrick, 32, of Delray Beach, are charged with brokering patients from their Delray Beach sober home, The Halfway House, to Whole Life Recovery.

Both have pleaded not guilty. Cases pending.

»Third sober home official arrested on patient brokering charges

John Dudek

Arrested Nov. 17 and Feb. 26 on 39 counts of aiding patient brokering.

John Dudek, a 55-year-old tattoo artist from Delray Beach, has been arrested twice on aiding patient brokering charges. In both cases, Dudek received $450 for each addict with insurance that he enrolled from his sober home, Southern Palms Oasis to Whole Life Recovery.

Dudek pleaded guilty to 13 counts of aiding patient brokering on June 16 and was sentenced to three years of probation. He must also pay a $5,000 fine. As part of his plea deal, Dudek agreed to aid and testify in cases brought by the Sober Home Task Force. He cannot work in the drug treatment industry and may not discuss cases with others facing charges from Whole Life Recovery and Chapters, formerly doing business as Good Future Recovery. Dudek also must provide two DNA samples. He will not have a felony conviction if he successfully completes probation.

»Two sober home operators got kickbacks from treatment program, state says

Alex Vandervert

Arrested Dec. 13 on four counts of aiding patient brokering.

Vandervert, 29, of Hollywood, received $3,335 for residents from his Lake Worth sober home, Saje House, that he enrolled in Whole Life Recovery.

On April 19, he pleaded guilty to four counts of aiding patient brokering. Also, he must pay a $11,000 fine and serve three years of probation. He must cooperate with investigators, testify if necessary and provide two DNA samples. Sober homes he may own or operate must be certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences. Vandervert will not have a felony conviction if he successfully completes probation.

»Lake Worth sober home owner charged with patient brokering

Ehab “Egypt” Iskander

Arrested Nov. 22 on six counts of aiding patient brokering.

Iskander, 34, of Lake Worth, pleaded guilty on May 19 to six counts of brokering residents from his sober house, Integrity House, to Whole Life Recovery. He was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $5,250 fine. Additional details of his plea deal are sealed.

»Fifth sober home arrest in six days

Howard James Fowler Jr.

Arrested Nov. 21 on 14 counts of aiding patient brokering. Prosecutors pursued 7 charges.

Fowler, 27, of Boynton Beach, owned and operated Anchorage Sober Living in Delray Beach, and Limitless Consulting Solutions LLC. Fowler received kickbacks for brokering residents at his sober home to Whole Life Recovery, according to court records. The checks were signed by Kigar.

As part of a plea deal on Feb. 15, Fowler pleaded guilty to seven others. Fowler, who claimed on his Facebook page that he is a recovering addict, was sentenced to three years of probation and a $15,000 fine. He will not have a felony conviction if he successfully completes probation.

»Man faces patient brokering charges

Amanda LaFrance

Arrested Dec. 2 on 8 counts of patient brokering and 5 counts of aiding patient brokering. As co-owner of Saved by Grace, a sober home in Delray Beach, LaFrance deposited $6,750 in 13 checks from Whole Life Recovery for case-management services, according to court records.

LaFrance, 25, came to Florida several years ago for treatment, according to her mother. LaFrance pleaded guilty to four counts of patient brokering and one count of attempted patient brokering. She was sentenced to 18 months of probation and must cooperate with investigators. She will have no felony conviction if she successfully completes probation.

»Woman charged in sober home crackdown takes deal, avoids prison

Anthony Tursi

Arrested Dec. 16 on 13 counts of aiding patient brokering. Prosecutors pursued six counts.

Tursi, 30, of Boca Raton, pleaded guilty to six counts of aiding patient brokering on April 17 for accepting kickbacks for referring insured addicts from his sober home, Fellowship House, to Whole Life Recovery. Kigar signed many of the checks, according to court records. Tursi must serve two years of probation and pay a $15,000 fine. Additional conditions of his bond were redacted from the court file.

»Operator of Boca Raton sober home faces patient brokering charges

Leonard Dobard

Arrested Jan. 4 on 11 counts of aiding and attempting to aid patient brokering for enrolling residents living in his sober home, House of Chance, in Boynton Beach, in programs at Whole Life Recovery.

Dobard, 50, of Delray Beach, pleaded guilty on April 27 to nine counts of aiding patient brokering and two counts of attempted patient brokering. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $10,500 fine. He also must cooperate with investigators and is barred from working in the drug treatment industry. He will have no felony record if he successfully completes probation.

» 11th arrest made in sober home crackdown

Zarinah Hargrove and Angela Weathersbee

Arrested May 17 . Both face 22 counts of patient brokering and aiding patient brokering.

Hargrove, 41, of West Palm Beach, owner of True Sober Living on Kirk Road, allegedly accepted 11 payments for referring clients to Whole Life Recovery. Weathersbee, 37, of Lake Worth, signed attendance forms used by Whole Life to determine the referral fees paid to True Sober Living, according to court records.

Both have pleaded not guilty. Cases pending.

»Sober home owner and manager accused of patient brokering

Chapter’s Recovery/Good Future Recovery

Daniel Kandler

Arrested Feb. 23 on 93 counts of aiding patient brokering and on May 11 for 5 counts of patient brokering. Prosecutors are pursuing 48 of the aiding patient brokering charges and the five patient brokering charges. .

Kandler, 41, was the owner of Chapters Recovery, formerly known as Good Future Recovery. According to the arrest report, Kandler paid $325,000 to three sober home operators who enrolled residents living in their sober homes in treatment programs at Chapters Recovery. In December, the Sober Home Task Force raided the business.

Kandler is also the owner of Impact Q Testing, a laboratory next to Chapters in Delray Beach. Police reports say that Kandler — along with co-owners David Remland and Mark Desimone — made payments to James Tomasso and others for urine samples from addicts at various treatment centers. Prosecutors filed five additional patient brokering charges against Kandler in May relating to business practices at his lab.

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

» Drug treatment CEO arrested on 93 counts of patient brokering

»Sober home task force makes 26th arrest: Takes aim at labs

David Remland

Arrested May 10 on five counts of patient brokering.

Charges against Remland, 52, of Boca Raton, stem from his alleged involvement with his business partners, Kandler and Mark DeSimone at Chapters and Impact Q.

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

»Sober home task force makes 26th arrest: Takes aim at labs

Mark DeSimone

Arrested May 11 on five counts of patient brokering.

State corporation records show DeSimone, 61, of Delray Beach, as the registered agent and manager of Good Future. Charges stem from his alleged involvement with his business partners, Kandler and Remland.

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

»Sober home task force makes 26th arrest: Takes aim at labs

Eric Lahr and Adam Lahr

Both arrested Feb. 26 on 34 counts of aiding patient brokering. Prosecutors are pursing 12 counts against Eric 29, and one count against 26-year-old Adam.

The brothers, owners of The Treatment Professionals, accepted 34 checks totaling $185,904 for enrolling residents at their sober in treatment programs at Chapters Recovery, formerly Good Future Recovery, according to court records.

Both have pleaded not guilty. Cases pending.

»More sober home operators arrested.

Kristopher Bayne

Arrested Feb. 24 on 33 counts of aiding patient brokering. Prosecutors are pursuing 23 counts.

Bayne, 28, of Delray Beach, received checks from Good Future Recovery totaling $94,225 for insured addicts from his sober home business, Guiding Light Properties, that he enrolled in the treatment program, according to court records.

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

»Sober arrests ratcheting up: Operator charge with taking kickbacks

Sarah Muhammad

Arrested June 15 on 35 counts of aiding patient brokering and one count of patient brokering.

Muhammad, 50, of Boca Raton, worked as the admissions director at Chapters Recovery, a substance-abuse treatment facility that also did business as Good Futures Recovery in Delray Beach. Over six months, Muhammad was connected to more than $155,000 in referral fees to the Lahr brothers and Bayne for enrolling residents at their sober homes in treatment programs at Chapters Recovery.

Awaiting arraignment. Case pending.

» Admission director at Delray treatment center arrested

James Tomasso

Arrest Feb. 8 on 21 counts of patient brokering and four counts of aiding patient brokering. Prosecutors are not pursuing the four counts of aiding patient brokering.

Tomasso, 57, is also the target of a forfeiture, filed by the Delray Beach Police Department, for $61,881 found in his home during a search on Feb. 8. Tomasso, who was on federal probation and barred from the drug treatment business when he was arrested, paid more than $68,000 to the operator of Infinity House sober home to enroll residents of Infinity House in Tomasso’s treatment programs.

Tomasso operated Pathways 2 Recovery in Boca Raton, Inspirations Recovery in Greenacres and Acceptance Recovery Center in Delray Beach from the offices of Global Recovery Resources, another business owned by Tomasso.

Police reports say Tomasso also accepted payments from Kandler, Remland and Desimone for urine samples from addicts at various treatment centers.

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

»Boca treatment center owner charged with patient brokering

Dickie Taylor Dreher

Arrested May 11 on nine counts of aiding patient brokering for accepting kickbacks from Tomasso for enrolling clients in Tomasso’s treatment centers, according to police reports.

Dreher, 24, of Palm Beach Shores, is scheduled to accept a plea bargain at a court hearing on Aug. 10.

»Sober home task force makes 26th arrest: Takes aim at labs

Palm Beach Recovery and Wellness

Steve Johnson

Arrested March 1 on 48 counts of aiding patient brokering. Prosecutors are pursuing 46 charges.

Johnson, 45, a 1990 graduate of Wellington High School, paid referral fees to sober home operators to steer insured addicts to his treatment center, Palm Beach Recovery & Wellness in West Palm Beach. Johnson used a bank account from another company he operated, Reel Recovery, to pay referral fees to Alex Vandervert, according to court records. Vandervert pleaded guilty in April to brokering clients to Whole Life Recovery.

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

»Sober home task force raid nets 20th arrest

Hope Center for Recovery/Relapse Prevention

James and Jaclyn Durkin

Arrested Feb. 9. James Durkin, 37, faces eight counts of forging checks. His wife, Jaclyn Durkin, 29, faces two counts of forging checks.

James Durkin operated Hope Center Recovery, which did business as Relapse Prevention in Boynton Beach. According to court records, the couple used the credentials of a doctor who did not work for them to file insurance claims. James Durkin forged the doctor’s signature, according to court records. Jaclyn Durkin deposited two checks, according to court records. Her husband deposited others, for a combined total of $37,487.

Both pleaded not guilty. Cases pending.

»Addiction treatment center raided: Husband and wife arrested

Epiphany Treatment Center

Robert “Bobby” Simeone 

Arrested March 21 on 15 counts of aiding patient brokering.

Simeone, 46, a former Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy who left to open Epiphany Treatment Center in West Palm Beach, paid referral fees to sober home operators for each insured addict they enrolled in Epiphany. Vandervert also aided investigators in the case against Steve Johnson.

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

»Former deputy and state house candidate faces patient brokering charges

Anastasia Way/London Treatment Center

Matthew Anderson

Arrested May 10 on two counts of patient brokering.

Anderson, 38, offered free rent to residents of his West Palm Beach sober home, Anastasia’s Way, contingent on their attendance at London Treatment Center, also in West Palm Beach, court records show.

Pleaded not guilty. Case pending.

»Owner of West Palm Beach sober home accused of patient brokering

The Wellness Center of Palm Beach

Jayeshkumar Rameshander Dave

Arrested June 27 on two counts of patient brokering.

Dave, 39, owner of The Wellness Center in West Palm Beach, required addicts living in his sober homes to enroll in his treatment program and also paid their rent and gave them cigarettes and gift cards, according to court records. Investigators obtained messages from Dave’s Facebook account and found “countless pages of airline tickets,” Uber rides and other services to entice addicts, according to court records.

Awaiting arraignment. Case pending.

»West Palm Beach treatment center owner charged with patient brokering

What The Post reported

An two-year investigation by The Palm Beach Post’s investigative team exposed widespread corruption in the county’s billion-dollar addiction treatment industry, including insurance fraud, kickbacks and patient brokering. To read the investigation and continuing coverage, go to MyPalmBeachPost.com/soberhomes.



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