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. LaFrance will have no felony conviction if she completes 18 months of probation.

Asked whether LaFrance was offered the plea bargain in exchange for her cooperation, Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson declined to comment but added: “As we have said before, people who want to cooperate, we are going to listen and factor that into our decision-making.”

LaFrance is one of 11 people arrested by the task force since Oct. 25, when James Kigar, owner of Whole Life Recovery in Boynton Beach, and consultant Christopher Hutson were arrested on charges of patient brokering for allegedly paying kickbacks to sober-home operators, such as LaFrance, to enroll insured addicts in their treatment program.

According to court records, Kigar, who signed the checks at Whole Life Recovery, paid as much as $525 a week in case-management services for every client with insurance sober home operators enrolled at his treatment center.

LaFrance deposited $6,750 in 13 checks from Whole Life Recovery for case-management services. Deon Hill, her business partner and the father of her 6-month-old daughter, deposited a check for $525.

Hill, 50, has not been charged but is being held without bail at the Palm Beach County Detention Center on an unrelated armed robbery charge.

At her daughter’s bond hearing on Dec. 3, LaFrance’s mother, Laureen Rucki, said she sent her daughter to Florida for drug treatment three years ago. When LaFrance left treatment, she bounced from sober home to sober home — where Rucki believes her daughter learned how to make money brokering addicts because she, herself, was the victim of patient brokering.

In February 2015, LaFrance and Hill started Saved by Grace Recovery, a sober home in Delray Beach. According to their Facebook pages, Hill and LaFrance became engaged on Christmas 2015. The couple had a baby in May, and by the end of August, Hill had relapsed and was arrested on charges of armed robbery.

“She no longer has that business, and she has relapsed,” Rucki testified in court on Dec. 3. “She has no car, no money and has been living on the street for three months.”

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

To get addicts to enroll, treatment center operators pay case-management fees that they say require sober home operators to complete specific, critical duties. Prosecutors allege the duties mask the true intent behind the payments — to provide the treatment center with a steady stream of insured addicts.

Florida law prohibits treatment providers from paying a commission, bonus, rebate, kickback or bribe for new patients. The task force created by State Attorney Dave Aronberg has warned that paying case management fees is patient brokering.

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