- Lawrence Mower Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
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 osteopath admitted to signing off on unnecessary drug, allergy and DNA tests, which helped Chatman turn his drug treatment center into a multimillion-dollar business.
Willems is the first doctor to see prison as authorities crack down on corruption in South Florida’s lucrative drug treatment industry. But he’s the second doctor to be charged for working for Chatman.
Dr. Joaquin Mendez, who was also a medical director at Reflections, is out on $100,000 bond. Federal prosecutors last week moved to put him back behind bars, claiming he was caught prescribing opioids to Medicare patients, which is against the conditions of his release.
The allegations against them were similar.
Although Willems was supposed to be treating the patients at Reflections, he admitted in his plea that he wasn’t monitoring the results of their drug tests. If he was, he would have noticed that most of the patients were not sober and their drug tests were being submitted by other people, including Reflections’ workers.
Willems also was prescribing controlled pain medications, even though his DEA license was suspended. In 2012, he had to give up that license after he was arrested on charges of racketeering and illegally providing oxycodone for working at a pill mill.
Willems was allowed to keep his state medical license, which allowed him to work at Reflections. To get around the DEA license, he admitted using other doctors’ DEA numbers and forging their signatures on prescriptions. The Broward case still has not been resolved.
While Chatman was sentenced to 27 years in prison in May, his lawyers have filed papers saying he plans to appeal. Chatman admitted to forcing some of his female patients to become prostitutes at his sober homes in Palm Beach County. Even in South Florida’s widely corrupt drug treatment industry, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña called Chatman “the most dangerous” player in it.
Aside from Willems and Chatman, five other people — including Chatman’s wife, Laura — have taken plea deals and been sentenced to a combined 20 years in federal prison.
Only Mendez has not taken a plea deal.
He’s facing charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and health care fraud. As part of the conditions of his release in December, he was not allowed to use his Medicare number to “provide any services,” according to a court filing on Friday. His Medicare number also was revoked after he was released.
But federal prosecutors say that between February and May, Mendez treated at least 188 Medicare patients, and he wrote more than 100 prescriptions for controlled substances that included oxycodone, OxyContin, clonazepam and fentanyl.
Prosecutors wrote that agents learned Mendez was dropping in on assisted living facilities and asking if anybody wanted to see a doctor. He would then either write the patient a prescription or refer them to a home health agency.
A judge will decide whether he will be arrested again.
Willems also was sent back to jail this year for violating the conditions of his release after he was caught working for another drug treatment center and prescribing drugs.