A woman identified by police as the operator of a Delray Beach sober home is charged with receiving at least $65,800 to refer residents to the London Treatment Center in West Palm Beach, whose owners were arrested last year by Palm Beach County's Sober Home Task Force.
Betsy Dieujuste, 36, of Boca Raton was booked Thursday evening into the Palm Beach County Jail, charged with 33 counts of patient brokering. The charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
In court Friday morning, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Charles Burton set Dieujuste’s bond at $15,000 bond along with supervised release. Prosecutors had asked for $75,000.
Prosecutors said Dieujuste was convicted of retail theft in 2002 and once failed to appear in court. Dieujuste said she was born in Boynton Beach and is a lifelong Palm Beach County resident.
“I support my whole family,” Dieujuste told Burton.
“That’s a good thing,” Burton said. “The allegation is the way you are supporting your family is not a good thing.”
A telephone message left Friday at A Way and Means, a business listed for Dieujuste in the report from Delray Beach police, was not immediately returned.
Patient brokering occurs when substance-abuse treatment centers pay sober homes — where addicts live while getting clean — to steer clients with private health insurance to them. A Palm Beach Post investigation found that insurance companies often are billed as much as $5,000 for a single urine drug screen.
Florida law prohibits treatment providers from paying a commission, bonus, kickback or bribe for new patients.
According to the Delray Beach police report, Dieujuste operated Life Change Recovery, a sober home with Delray Beach locations on Northwest Third Drive and Lake Boulevard.
In August 2017, the report said, the detective met with a person identified only as “D.D.,” who told him he had lived at the Northwest Third Drive location since March 2017. He said Dieujuste charged residents $150 week rent but offered D.D. a $100 discount if he brought in a patient who stayed for one week and attended an “intensive outpatient program,” or IOP. He said he received the discount.
Later, “D.D.” told police, he brought his girlfriend at the time, identified only as “A.W.,” who stayed there and, in May or June 2017, attended an IOP at London Treatment Center in West Palm Beach. In exchange, the man told the detective, the woman gave him the $100 discount.
The police report said that after London Treatment Center closed, Dieujuste referred patients to the IOP at Avalon Recovery in Lake Worth. Internet postings say that facility also has closed.
The report lists four other people who told of receiving such discounts, or being offered them but not taking advantage. Another person said Dieujuste told her attendance at London Treatment Center was mandatory if she wanted to stay at Life Change.
In February 2017, the Sober Homes Task Force arrested James Tomasso, 57, of Boca Raton, owner and director of Global Recovery Resources. Police charged him with paying for referrals to one of his wife’s three treatment centers.
The police report for Dieujuste’s arrest said Tomasso wrote five checks totalling $2,600 either to her business, A Way and Means, or directly to her. The report said that in September, police visited Tomasso in jail and that he gave a sworn statement saying the checks were for patient referrals.
Police later found another five checks, totalling $3,200, that Tomasso said he’d paid either to Dieujuste or her firm or to Life Change Recovery.
Police said they also seized Tomasso’s cellphone and found voice messages and texts from Dieujuste in which she discusses referral payoffs. One text reads, “Good morning if I was to sent clients to you for Iop can you do my mf at $500.”
In another text, Tomasso alerted Dieujuste of the arrest of treatment center operator Kenny Chatman and texted her a news story, the report said. Chatman would be sentenced in May 2017 to 27 years in prison.
In August, the report said, police received documents showing 21 payments between February and May 2017. They totaled $60,000.
In September, Tomasso and the two owners of London Treatment pleaded guilty to patient brokering charges. Tomasso was sentenced to 18 months in jail and ordered to pay $107,328 in fines.
Staff photographer Lannis Waters contributed to this story.