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 for June 7.
Willems, 41, looked bedraggled, appearing in a blue jumpsuit with a scratchy beard.
He admitted to essentially being a doctor in name only for Chatman’s Reflections Treatment Center in central Broward County, according to his plea.
As its medical director from October 2015 to May 2016, he was supposed to be seeing patients, prescribing treatment and monitoring drug tests.
In reality, Chatman was the one ordering patients’ tests, according to the plea. Willems signed off on the tests afterward, and he allowed “medically unnecessary” DNA and allergy testing for patients.
Patients never found out the results of those tests. And Willems didn’t follow up to see if patients passed their drug tests.
“If Willems had, in fact, monitored the drug test results, he would have realized that most of the patients at Reflections were continuing to abuse drugs, and that urine and saliva samples from other people were being substituted for the patients’ urine and saliva samples,” his plea states.
Willems also wasn’t allowed to be issuing opioids — he’d given up his DEA license in 2012, after he was arrested by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for his involvement in a pill mill operation. That case is still open, and Willems still has a clear and active medical license with Florida’s Department of Health.
To get around the DEA restriction, he used other doctors’ DEA numbers and prescriptions with another doctor’s forged signature, according to the plea.
He admitted to turning patients into prostitutes, pimping them out on the websites craiglist.org and Backpage.com. He faces up to life in prison.
Two other Reflections doctors also have been arrested. Dr. Barry Gregory has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and knowingly falsifying a matter involving health care programs.
Dr. Joaquin Mendez has been charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and money laundering. He has pleaded not guilty.
Willems was arrested in December and released on $100,000 bond. But after he got out, federal prosecutors said he violated the conditions of his release: He contacted witnesses in the case, continued to treat people in sober homes and prescribed drugs to patients — and himself — using other doctors’ DEA numbers.
He was arrested again last week.