Dem candidate Graham says she’d sue Big Pharma over opioid costs

Democratic candidate Gwen Graham says if she becomes Florida governor she’ll file a lawsuit against pharmaceutical makers to get them to offset the costs of dealing with the opioid crisis. “To me, we need to do with the opioid crisis what (former Gov.) Lawton Chiles did with the tobacco crisis. We need to be holding the pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in addicting so...
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.



The feds’ opioid crackdown involved only one case in Florida. Why?

The feds’ opioid crackdown involved only one case in Florida. Why?

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it the largest opioid-related fraud bust in U.S. history. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the huge fraud crackdown was aimed at stopping opportunists from taking advantage of a “national scourge,” the nation’s killer opioid epidemic. But a huge nationwide sweep of health-care fraud cases announced Thursday inexplicably...
Huge health-care fraud sweep: Only 1 addiction treatment case in Fla.

Huge health-care fraud sweep: Only 1 addiction treatment case in Fla.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it the largest opioid-related fraud bust in U.S. history. He said at a news conference how an American dies of an overdose every 11 minutes. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the huge fraud crackdown was aimed at stopping opportunists from taking advantage of a “national scourge,” the nation’s killer opioid epidemic. But...
West Palm Beach drug rehab owners charged with patient brokering

West Palm Beach drug rehab owners charged with patient brokering

The Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force have charged the owners of a West Palm Beach treatment center with paying kickbacks to sober home operators for insured addicts, bringing the total number of arrests in Palm Beach County’s corruption crackdown to 30. Jordi Martinez-Garcia, 48, of Palm Beach Gardens and his partner, Mark Johnston, 55, of West Palm Beach were arrested on 62 counts of...
Feds: Delray rehab owner arrested, billed $58 million for urine tests

Feds: Delray rehab owner arrested, billed $58 million for urine tests

Eric Snyder, owner and operator of a Delray Beach drug treatment center and sober home raided by the FBI in December 2014, has been arrested and charged with fraudulently billing insurance companies for $58.2 million over nearly five years, according to court records. Snyder, 30, and Christopher Fuller, 32, described in a 26-page federal complaint as a “junkie hunter” hired by Snyder,...
Sober Home Task Force score: One-fourth already have pleaded guilty

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...
BREAKING: Chatman drug treatment associates owe millions

BREAKING: Chatman drug treatment associates owe millions

Conspirators in Kenny Chatman’s sprawling drug treatment criminal enterprise are on the hook for millions of dollars, with one man expected to pay his share of $5.6 million in restitution. Chatman’s operations had a horrifying human cost but most of the money came from insurers. Family members blame his operations for loved ones’ deadly relapses, and prosecutors told how Chatman...
UPDATE: West Palm Beach sober home owner accused of patient brokering

UPDATE: West Palm Beach sober home owner accused of patient brokering

10:15 a.m. UPDATE: Judge Caroline Shepherd set Jayeshkumar Rameshander Dave’s bond at $10,000 in a brief court hearing Wednesday at the Palm Beach County Jail. He is also required to surrender his passport and cannot practice in the industry until the case is resolved. The State Attorney told Shepherd during the hearing that new evidence was found through a search warrant, which could result...
NEW: Sober-home regulation starts Saturday with new Florida law

NEW: Sober-home regulation starts Saturday with new Florida law

Florida’s burgeoning sober-home industry, fraught with fraud, will soon see oversight, as Gov. Rick Scott signed a sober home cleanup bill into law Monday. The law targets shady marketing practices, including kickbacks and patient brokering, that draw addicts to seemingly unregulated sober homes and treatment facilities throughout the state with the promise of recovery. Palm Beach...
NEW: Delray treatment center director arrested for patient brokering

NEW: Delray treatment center director arrested for patient brokering

A 50-year-old Boca Raton woman was arrested by the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force on Thursday and charged with 35 counts of patient brokering. This is the 27th arrest by the task force since October 2016. Sarah Muhammad was employed at Chapters Recovery, a substance-abuse treatment facility which also did business as Good Futures Recovery in Delray Beach, between 2015 and at least through...
Doctor in Kenny Chatman drug treatment case given max sentence

Doctor in Kenny Chatman drug treatment case given max sentence

One of the doctors who oversaw patient care at one of Kenny Chatman’s notorious drug treatment centers was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in federal prison. Dr. Donald Willems, the medical director for Chatman’s Reflections Treatment Center from October 2015 to May 2016, was given the maximum sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In his plea deal, the...
NEW: This Palm Beach County town is now limiting detox centers

NEW: This Palm Beach County town is now limiting detox centers

No detox centers will be allowed to open in Lake Park after officials approved a moratorium this week. The six substance abuse treatment centers in the town licensed by the Department of Children and Families can continue operations but not expand, town Attorney Tom Baird said. Lake Park will not accept applications for new detox or rehab centers. Mayor Michael O’Rourke said the measure equates...
Drug overdoses among new challenges for hurricane shelters

Drug overdoses among new challenges for hurricane shelters

Nearly 16,000 people in nine counties from Indian River to Miami-Dade evacuated to shelters during Hurricane Matthew, toting typical sleepover accessories — and their own personal demons. Six evacuees who sought refuge at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach overdosed on drugs as the dangerous Category 4 cyclone approached South Florida. In another county, a bus full of teenagers from a residential...
Drug overdoses among new challenges for hurricane shelters

Drug overdoses among new challenges for hurricane shelters

Nearly 16,000 people in nine counties from Indian River to Miami-Dade evacuated to shelters during Hurricane Matthew, toting typical sleepover accessories — and their own personal demons. Six evacuees who sought refuge at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach overdosed on drugs as the dangerous Category 4 cyclone approached South Florida. In another county, a bus full of teenagers from a residential...
BREAKING: Sober home owner, manager accused of patient brokering

BREAKING: Sober home owner, manager accused of patient brokering

The owner and manager of a sober home west of Lake Worth have been charged with taking patient brokering payoffs from a Delray Beach drug treatment center raided last fall, according to records. The county’s Sober Home Task Force charged Zarinah Hargrove, 41, and Angela M. Weathersbee, 38, each with 10 counts. Both were booked Wednesday into the Palm Beach County Jail — Hargrove in the...
First dose of opioid money favors Central Florida over South Florida

First dose of opioid money favors Central Florida over South Florida

Two weeks after Gov. Rick Scott ordered the Department of Health to declare a state of emergency over the opioid crisis, the promised $27 million in aid is starting to roll out. First priorities: medical treatment for people addicted to heroin or other opioids, and naloxone to reverse overdoses. The Florida Department of Children and Families, the agency charged with overseeing addiction treatment...
Notorious treatment center operator Chatman gets 27 years in prison

Notorious treatment center operator Chatman gets 27 years in prison

Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman was a relatively small drug-treatment provider despite the millions he raked in every year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña said Wednesday. But he was “the most dangerous,” she told U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks, and FBI agents “never worked harder” than the last few months of 2016, as they rushed to put Chatman...
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...
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