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Third sober-home official arrested on patient-brokering charge


Click for complete sober homes coverageThe Sober Home Task Force’s crackdown on patient brokering in the drug treatment industry continued Friday with the arrest of Patrick Norquist — whose younger brother was arrested a day earlier on the same charges.

The older brother was held overnight without bond at the Palm Beach County Detention Center until his attorney, Jacob Cohen, assured the prosecutor and judge that the money Norquist would use for bail had not come from illegal activities.

Like his younger brother, Norquist faces 16 charges of patient brokering. He is expected to be released after posting a $48,000 bond this afternoon, Cohen said. The younger Norquist bonded out after his arrest Thursday.

A third man, John Dudek, 55, of Delray Beach has also been charged with receiving kickbacks for brokering sober home patients to Whole Life Recovery.

Patrick Norquist’s arrest affidavit was not available Saturday. However, his brother’s arrest affidavit lays out the brothers’ business deals with Whole Life Recovery, a treatment center in Boynton Beach, and states there is enough evidence to arrest both on 16 counts of patient brokering.

According to the arrest report, Patrick Norquist signed a patient referral contract with Whole Life Recovery in April 2016. Under the agreement, the brothers agreed to refer clients from their sober home, The Halfway House Inc., at 135 NW 1st Ave. in Delray Beach, in exchange for a fee.

The contracts, called case-management agreements, are commonly used by treatment facilities to circumvent Florida’s patient brokering law, according to the police report. That law makes it illegal to “offer or pay any commission, bonus, rebate, kickback or bribe” in order to persuade patients to go to a particular health-care provider.

For every client with insurance who was referred, the Norquists received weekly payments as long as the clients attended therapy. Between April and August, the brothers and their companies received $30,000 in kickbacks.

The checks were signed by James Kigar, an owner of Whole Life Recovery. Kigar was arrested Oct. 25 on charges of patient brokering. Christopher Hutson, an operator at Whole Life Recovery, was also arrested and charged with patient brokering.

Dudek, owner of Southern Palm Oasis sober home at 3936 Lowson Blvd. in Delray Beach, had a similar case-management agreement with Whole Life Recovery. Dudek was charged with six counts of patient brokering, one count for each client he referred to Whole Life Recovery.

Drug-treatment centers make millions of dollars from the urine of drug addicts. As part of their treatment programs, many test the urine of recovering addicts at least three times a week.

Insurance companies pay at least $1,000 for each test, making each addict worth at least $12,000 a month in urine tests. The treatment centers also bill for therapy, which can bring in thousands of dollars more.

The arrests have unnerved marketers and sober-home operators, who have made millions of dollars brokering insured addicts to treatment providers. The better the addict’s insurance coverage, the higher the kickback.

MORE ONLINE: Read The Post’s complete coverage of Palm Beach County’s sober-home industry.

Young addicts still covered under their parents’ insurance plans are the most sought after and are referred to as “thoroughbreds.” Their insurance cards are dubbed “black cards” — after the exclusive American Express black card which has no preset spending limit.

The practice of treatment centers paying case-management fees to marketers and sober home operators has become so widespread that many within the industry do not know that patient brokering is illegal.

Attorneys for some treatment providers and sober homes say the law is vague and claim to have drafted contracts that keep providers inside the law. However, Chief Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson, who heads the Sober Home Task Force, disagrees.

“Patient inducements such as cigarettes, gift cards, Xboxes, gym memberships, clothes, shoes, rent or rent subsidies and free plane tickets are illegal,” Johnson said during a news conference in September. “Cash or other form of compensation to sober homes, brokers, marketers or patients, either offered or accepted, in return for the referral of patients to a treatment facility or recovery residence, is illegal.”


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