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What two south county cities are doing to regulate sober homes

Two cities in south Palm Beach County are on their way to becoming the first cities in the state to force sober homes to tighten standards and stop settling in clusters. Delray Beach and Boynton Beach both plan to adopt regulations that would force sober homes to voluntarily certify with a nonprofit that requires them to meet business and housing standards — or prove they meet those standards...
Inside the Gold Rush

For addicts and alcoholics seeking sobriety, Palm Beach County is ground zero.

Celebrities and pro athletes fly in on private jets. Millennials addicted to heroin and designer drugs are delivered by worried parents. It's a billion dollar industry chiefly fueled by pee in a cup. Yet the industry faces a huge bust if an FBI task force finds evidence of kickbacks, insurance fraud and patient brokering.

The Palm Beach Post takes a hard look at the recovery boom at a make-or-break juncture.



Woman on Chatman: ‘Men came in and paid him money to rape me.’

Woman on Chatman: ‘Men came in and paid him money to rape me.’

Kenny Chatman kept a 19-year-old woman tied down in a house, where more than 100 men raped her, a woman wrote to U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks on Monday. The corrupt drug treatment center operator, who faces up to life in prison when sentenced today, held her for weeks, until she jumped out of a window and escaped wearing nothing but a T-shirt, according to the letter. “They IV-drugged...
Sober Home Task Force makes 26th arrest - takes aim at labs

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

Owner of West Palm Beach sober home accused of patient brokering

The owner of two Palm Beach County sober homes where police responded to 28 calls last year — including six overdoses — was arrested on multiple counts of patient brokering on Wednesday. Matthew Anderson, 38, offered free rent to residents of his sober home, Anastasia’s Way, contingent on their attendance at London Treatment Center, according to a police report. Detectives reviewed...
Tax savings for voters means cost cutting for county — or tax hikes

Tax savings for voters means cost cutting for county — or tax hikes

State lawmakers are expected to finalize the budget Monday, but for many officials in Palm Beach County, the most important votes already have been taken. Those were the votes that passed a joint resolution allowing residents to determine if they want to expand the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000 for homes worth $100,000 or more. The state House and Senate passed the resolution, HJR 7105...
Here’s what Florida lawmakers did — and didn’t do — about the heroin crisis

Here’s what Florida lawmakers did — and didn’t do — about the heroin crisis

Florida lawmakers attacked the heroin overdose epidemic this year wherever they could find it — in courtrooms, call-centers, hospitals, sober homes and treatment centers. Unlike recent years, when bills related to addiction and sober homes faced indifference and pious judgment, this year’s legislative session saw bipartisan bills flying through both houses unopposed. Some of the urgency...
Sober home cleanup bill on path to OK after dangling all week

Sober home cleanup bill on path to OK after dangling all week

A bill that would crack down on shady business practices in the drug-treatment industry is on a path to approval after its fate was up in the air for days. With a heavy dose of local lobbying, the bill to crack down on bad sober homes survived a key calendar call Wednesday to make it to the Senate floor Thursday. It must pass the Senate twice before lawmakers stop hearing bills on Friday. Palm...
Door remains open to Florida declaration of opioid health crisis

Door remains open to Florida declaration of opioid health crisis

Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip said Tuesday she has not ruled out declaring a public health emergency for the opioid epidemic. At the same time, officials announced the state would be getting a two-year, $54 million federal grant to attack the opioid crisis. At least $17 million would go toward medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone and Suboxone, which curb addicts’ cravings...
Sober home certification: Nonprofit could again lose money to do it

Sober home certification: Nonprofit could again lose money to do it

Certifying sober homes was one of the top proposals for cleaning up the state’s fraud-ridden drug treatment industry, thePalm Beach County State Attorney’s Task Force concluded last year. But for a second year in a row, the organization that does the certifying statewide could see its financing gutted by lawmakers. In February, the Florida Association for Recovery Residences asked the...
Top clinician for notorious treatment center gets 5 years in prison

Top clinician for notorious treatment center gets 5 years in prison

A former clinical director at the notorious drug rehab center run by Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman was sentenced Wednesday to four years and nine months in federal prison. Barry Gregory was responsible for overseeing treatment plans at Chatman’s Reflections Treatment Center in Margate. But he largely turned a blind eye to problems there; he admitted in February to signing orders...
Sentences handed down for 3 associates of drug treatment owner Chatman

Sentences handed down for 3 associates of drug treatment owner Chatman

Jaime Holley once wrote a Mother’s Day card that’s now part of the federal criminal case against notorious drug treatment center operator Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman. “The only thing better than having you as a mom is my children will have you as Grandma,” Jaime Holley wrote, drawing hearts throughout. Holley’s family blames Chatman and his associates for the...
Heroin epidemic: As deaths rise, program a ‘glimmer of hope’ for life

Heroin epidemic: As deaths rise, program a ‘glimmer of hope’ for life

Six weeks ago, Shawn Walker was shooting heroin at least once a day, feeding a two-year addiction that he supported by pawning and selling whatever he stole from family and stores. “Heroin was my girlfriend. It was my everything,” he said. “I was in a messed up, co-dependent relationship with that drug.” Now, the Lake Worth man has been clean since March 13. He works in construction...
Aronberg wants to speak with Scott about opioid emergency

Aronberg wants to speak with Scott about opioid emergency

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg has joined a growing list of officials trying to get Gov. Rick Scott to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Aronberg, as head of the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, sent a letter on Thursday to Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, asking her to contact the state surgeon general to arrange a meeting...
EXCLUSIVE: Dolphins TE Anthony Fasano running Delray addiction-treatment center in offseason

EXCLUSIVE: Dolphins TE Anthony Fasano running Delray addiction-treatment center in offseason

Anthony Fasano’s life was about to change that day a relative failed to show for a high school game he was supposed to coach. Rather than realize the personal, long-term ramifications of what was unfolding, all Fasano cared about over the next couple of days was finding his relative and sorting out whatever was wrong. Drugs, that’s what was wrong. Fasano, like many, knew little about addiction...
Judge asks governor for opioids help: ‘It’s just the right thing to do’

Judge asks governor for opioids help: ‘It’s just the right thing to do’

As Palm Beach County’s chief circuit judge, Jeffrey Colbath has had a courtroom view of the opioid epidemic’s toll on society during the past few years. He also is aware that local leaders have pleaded to Gov. Rick Scott for help to curb the crisis, only to be ignored. That’s why Colbath decided to write his own letter to Scott, asking the governor to declare a public-health emergency...
Doctor who worked at notorious treatment center pleads guilty

Doctor who worked at notorious treatment center pleads guilty

One of the three doctors accused of helping notorious drug treatment operator Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman commit millions of dollars in fraud pleaded guilty Thursday. Dr. Donald Willems, who was out on bond until he was caught last week prescribing drugs to himself, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He could spend up to 10 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled...
UPDATE: Ex-PBSO deputy bonds out of jail on patient-brokering charges

UPDATE: Ex-PBSO deputy bonds out of jail on patient-brokering charges

A former Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy arrested Tuesday on patient-brokering charges has been released from the county jail. West Palm Beach police say Robert “Bobby” Simeone, 46, posted $45,000 bond late Tuesday, hours after his arrest. He is accused of paying two sober home owners hundreds of dollars a week to send their residents last year to his center, Epiphany’s...
Former deputy, state House candidate faces patient brokering charges

Former deputy, state House candidate faces patient brokering charges

A former Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy who left to open a West Palm Beach drug treatment center was arrested Tuesday on 15 counts of patient brokering. Robert “Bobby” Simeone, 46, owner of Epiphany’s Treatment Center and an unsuccessful 2016 candidate for state House, was the latest person arrested by the State Attorney’s Sober Home Task Force, which now ...
Sober home owner Kenny Chatman pleads guilty, faces life in prison

Sober home owner Kenny Chatman pleads guilty, faces life in prison

Notorious drug treatment center owner Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracies to commit money laundering, health care fraud and sex trafficking, charges that could land him in prison for life. Handcuffed and shackled, Chatman listened as a federal prosecutor told how he turned patients into prostitutes: He gave them drugs to induce them. He pimped them on the websites...
Doctor in Chatman case caught working for drug treatment center

Doctor in Chatman case caught working for drug treatment center

Dr. Donald Willems, one of two doctors charged with insurance fraud at notorious drug treatment programs operated by Kenneth Chatman, was re-arrested on Friday and accused of violating the conditions of his bond. According to court records unsealed Friday afternoon, Willems continued working for a drug treatment facility, wrote prescriptions without a license and had contact with witnesses &mdash...
Delray mayor to lawmakers: ‘We are being crushed’ by opioid epidemic

Delray mayor to lawmakers: ‘We are being crushed’ by opioid epidemic

One day after Florida Governor Rick Scott did not mention the opioid crisis during his State of the State address, a contingent of 250 Palm Beach County officials pressed legislators hard Wednesday for help to combat a problem that has devastated families and strained first responders. During a meeting with state Senate President Joe Negron — one of 50 meetings county officials had...
Sober home task force raid nets 20th arrest

Sober home task force raid nets 20th arrest

The Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force made its 20th arrest on Wednesday, charging Steve Johnson with 48 counts of patient brokering, alleging he paid referral fees to sober home operators for insured addicts. Johnson, 45, a 1990 graduate of Wellington High School, was being booked into the Palm Beach County Detention Center on Wednesday morning as agents raided Palm Beach Recovery & Wellness...
Three more sober home operators arrested in Delray Beach

Three more sober home operators arrested in Delray Beach

Two brothers and a tattoo artist surrendered at the Palm Beach County jail on Sunday after learning they were being charged with dozens of counts of patient brokering for allegedly accepting kickbacks from Chapters Recovery, a drug treatment center in Delray Beach. Brothers Adam, 25, and Eric, 28 Lahr, of Palm Beach Gardens, each face 34 counts of patient brokering. According to arrest reports, the...
POINT OF VIEW Whose child has to die before somebody does something?

POINT OF VIEW Whose child has to die before somebody does something?

“Whose child has to die before somebody does something?” That was the question my former aide, Johnnie Easton, asked me shortly after I was elected. It was one of what would become many sleepless nights she had to call me to tell me she would be late because she was out searching the streets for her daughter, Tasha. In mid-November of 2016, she got the answer to that question. Hers. Since...
Drug treatment CEO arrested on 93 counts of patient brokering

Drug treatment CEO arrested on 93 counts of patient brokering

The owner of a Delray Beach drug treatment center raided in December was arrested Thursday on 93 counts of patient brokering for allegedly paying kickbacks to sober home owners who enrolled insured addicts his treatment program. Daniel Kandler, 41, owner of Chapters Recovery - formerly known as Good Future Recovery - was arrested on Thursday morning by the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force...
Therapist: 90% of addicts in Chatman sober homes openly used drugs

Therapist: 90% of addicts in Chatman sober homes openly used drugs

As many as 90 percent of the addicts who were supposed to be getting treatment while living in sober homes connected to the notorious drug-treatment businesses operated by Kenneth Chatman were openly using drugs, enabling Chatman to continue billing their insurance for millions of dollars in unnecessary drug tests, according to the former clinical treatment director. New details of Chatman’s...
Drug-treatment operator Kenneth Chatman expected to plead guilty

Drug-treatment operator Kenneth Chatman expected to plead guilty

Kenneth Chatman, the accused operator of a notorious drug-treatment business who allegedly pimped out female addicts, is expected to plead guilty in a federal case that accuses him of money laundering, health care fraud and sex trafficking, recently filed court records show. The documents also reveal that investigators recorded more than 100 phone calls Chatman has made in jail since his arrest in...
FBI: Sober home owner offered deal: Prostitute yourself or steal

FBI: Sober home owner offered deal: Prostitute yourself or steal

The investigation into Kenny Chatman’s drug treatment empire began in September 2013, when two patients at a treatment center operated by him told West Palm Beach police that Chatman provided them with drugs and condoms and forced them into prostitution. Police told the FBI about the patients’ claims and as the investigation progressed over three years, more witnesses came forward with...
How a new rule could help Gardens keep tabs on sober homes

How a new rule could help Gardens keep tabs on sober homes

When a sober home isn’t helping their patients get better, there’s not much officials in Palm Beach Gardens or any other city can do. But that could soon change. Addiction is classified as a disability under federal law, so people who are in recovery are protected by the Fair Housing and Americans With Disabilities Acts. When a municipality’s regulations are challenged, the U.S....
Boca Raton treatment center owner charged with patient brokering

Boca Raton treatment center owner charged with patient brokering

UPDATE: A judge set bond on Thursday at $75,000 for James Tomasso, a drug treatment owner with two prior fraud convictions and 25 new charges of patient brokering. However, before Tomasso can post bail, he must prove at a court hearing Friday that money to be used to get out of jail did not come from illegal activities. Tomasso, 57, was arrested on Wednesday after the Palm Beach County Sober Home...
2nd sober home owner linked to Chatman pleads guilty to health fraud

2nd sober home owner linked to Chatman pleads guilty to health fraud

The owner of Redemption sober homes in Delray Beach on Tuesday pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud for accepting $240,000 in kickbacks from Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman, who is accused in a wide-ranging scheme to use people in recovery to rip off insurance companies. Michael Bonds, who said he completed a 28-day drug and alcohol treatment program in 2006 before opening...
Body-builder pleads guilty to role in massive sober house scheme

Body-builder pleads guilty to role in massive sober house scheme

A model and body-builder who worked as a salesman for a Boca Raton medical laboratory pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiracy to commit health-care fraud in connection with what federal prosecutors claim was a far-reaching scheme to use people in recovery to bilk insurance companies out of millions. Stefan Gatt’s plea indicates that those who worked with Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman, who...
Live via video feed: Doctors treating addicts

Live via video feed: Doctors treating addicts

The next big thing in drug treatment: Telemedicine. Among the topics that kicked off the annual meeting of the Addiction Industry Executive Summit in Naples last week was using the internet to remotely treat recovering addicts. Telemedicine allows doctors and therapists to communicate with patients via live video — similar to Skype or Facetime. According to the American Medical Association,...
Bodybuilder pleads not guilty in fraud scheme tied to drug treatment

Bodybuilder pleads not guilty in fraud scheme tied to drug treatment

Stefan Gatt, accused of participating in a drug treatment fraud scheme orchestrated by Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman, pleaded not guilty today in federal court. Federal prosecutors said last week that Gatt, a 27-year-old bodybuilder charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, collected urine and saliva samples from Chatman’s two drug treatment centers, Journey...

POINT OF VIEW: We need community-based solutions to fight drug abuse

If you think drug misuse and abuse doesn’t affect the business community, think again. From 2000 to 2010 there was a dramatic increase in opioid addiction statewide, with Broward County having the highest number of consequences. Unfortunately, the problem still persists today with 401 hospital admissions for opioid overdoses in Broward County during 2013, the most current reporting year. Among...
Treatment center operator Kenny Chatman indicted, pleads not guilty

Treatment center operator Kenny Chatman indicted, pleads not guilty

Addiction treatment center operator Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman on Thursday pleaded not guilty to a sweeping 17-count indictment that accuses him of money laundering, health care fraud and sex trafficking, charges that could send him to prison for life. The indictment, handed up Tuesday, showcases federal prosecutors plans to shut down what they called the 46-year-old suburban Boynton Beach...

State preparing to battle opioid crisis

One after another, politicians, policy makers, police and scientists stepped up to a podium during a news conference in Tallahassee on Wednesday and tried to find words to reflect the dire state of Florida’s opioid crisis. “This is truly, after 33 years of tracking drug trends in the state of Florida, the most rapidly rising and critical crisis in our lifetime and in the history of Florida...
Despite pill mill arrest, doctor free to get into drug rehab business

Despite pill mill arrest, doctor free to get into drug rehab business

When investigators with the Florida Department of Health and Broward County Sheriff’s Office descended on a Pompano Beach pain clinic in 2012 to search for evidence of crime, Dr. Donald Willems was ready to talk. The osteopathic physician admitted to signing blank prescriptions for powerful painkillers such as oxycodone. He admitted to letting a clinic manager fill them out, for patients he...
Despite losing grant, health district will help addicts with treatment

Despite losing grant, health district will help addicts with treatment

A month after learning it would not receive an $8.2 million grant to provide drug treatment to wean addicts off heroin, the Palm Beach County Health Care District is quickly moving forward with a scaled down version of its original plan. The taxpayer-financed district, which provides health care to the poor and uninsured, hopes to have the pilot project in place by the end of February. Efforts...
Woman charged in sober home crackdown takes deal, avoids prison

Woman charged in sober home crackdown takes deal, avoids prison

The only woman — and youngest — of 11 people charged with patient brokering at a Boynton Beach treatment center pleaded guilty to the charges on Monday, the first case disposed of since the Sober Home Task Force began making arrests in October. Amanda LaFrance, 25, pleaded guilty to four counts of patient brokering, all felonies, and one count of attempted patient brokering, a misdemeanor...
Heroin task force launches 2 initiatives, contemplates needle exchange

Heroin task force launches 2 initiatives, contemplates needle exchange

After a seemingly late and slow start over the summer, efforts of the Palm Beach County Heroin Task Force are gaining traction and support — with two major initiatives poised to launch this month. At a task force meeting on Thursday, task force leaders said a pilot program aimed at providing immediate detox and treatment for addicts who have overdosed and are taken to a hospital emergency...
BREAKING: 11th arrest made in local sober home crackdown

BREAKING: 11th arrest made in local sober home crackdown

The operator of a sober home in Boynton Beach was arrested on Wednesday and charged with patient brokering — the 11th arrest made by the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force since October. Leonard Reginald Dobard, 49, owner of House of Chance at 309 SE 36th Ave. in Boynton Beach, accepted 10 checks totalling $3,102 from Whole Life Recovery for enrolling residents living in his sober home...

Free rent to lure sober home customers faces crackdown

One of Palm Beach County’s top prosecutors on Tuesday issued a stark statement to South Florida’s lucrative drug and alcohol treatment community: The way you’ve been operating is illegal. For years, the county’s billion-dollar industry has treated addicts as if they were mules lured by a farmer’s carrots, with owners of sober homes and treatment centers enticing them...
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