Evidence of sex slavery cited to keep treatment center owner jailed

After one woman went to police about notorious drug treatment center owner Kenny Chatman, she said his employees took her away in a van and gave her a choice: sign something recanting her statement, or be killed.

Investigators last week found evidence backing up her claim.

In Chatman’s office safe was her signed statement, witnessed by a notary, according to a Tuesday court filing signed by U.S. Magistrate William Matthewman.

Matthewman cited that claim and others as justification for keeping Chatman in jail until his case involving charges of health care fraud and allegations of human trafficking is resolved.

Investigators continue to turn up evidence to support claims made by former patients and employees, according to the filing.

In one Mangonia Park home, where a woman claimed she was kept high so Chatman could prostitute her, the windows had been screwed shut. She said she had to break one of them to escape.

When investigators searched the home, they confirmed where the window had been broken, and a search of Chatman’s home turned up receipts for padlocks and pepper spray.

Several other patients claimed he took their phones or medications to prevent them from leaving his treatment center, according to prosecutors.

And when investigators searched Chatman’s car, they found bags of pills with patients’ names on them. They also found more than 40 cell phones and a purse that included a woman’s ID and food stamp card.

Prosecutors say Chatman, a felon with an 11th-grade education first exposed in a Palm Beach Post investigation last year, developed a drug treatment empire that was largely fraudulent.

Chatman was recorded discussing “kickback arrangements” with sober home operators to supply patients for his treatment centers, according to the documents, and prosecutors say he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash bribes from laboratory owners to test his patients’ urine samples.

He was arrested last week along with his wife, two doctors and two other associates. He faces up to 15 years in prison on two charges, but prosecutors said a grand jury will be asked to look at other charges, including human trafficking, weapons charges and operating a house for illicit drug use. They also want to hold him responsible for people who have overdosed and died in homes linked to him.

“Ultimately, Defendant (Chatman) prioritized his own greed over actually helping the patients recover,” the Tuesday filing states.

Law enforcement believes Palm Beach County’s lucrative drug treatment industry is mostly fraudulent, but the allegations against Chatman go beyond.

The woman who went to police claiming she was forced to work as a sex slave might have thought she was free of him.

But instead, she “accidentally” ended up in a sober home tied to Chatman, and eventually went back to his central Broward County treatment center, Reflections, according to the filing.

Chatman then ordered employees to take her away in a van and recant her statement.

“The alleged victim was told that Defendant would kill her if she did not sign the statement,” the filing states.

Other people told the FBI that Chatman had several weapons, and gave one of them to a person who drove the women to their “dates.”

A felon can’t legally possess a firearm, but his lawyer noted in court last week that investigators didn’t find any weapons during their searches.

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