From Florida Marlins to admitted felon: The fall of Justin Wayne

Updated Aug 31, 2018
Justin Wayne pitched for the Marlins from 2002 to 2004.

Former Florida Marlins pitcher Justin Wayne and his brother admitted in federal court this week that they made millions from a fraud scheme while working with notorious sober-home owner Kenny Chatman.

Their new status as convicted felons was a stark contrast to the celebrity the two gifted athletes achieved as professional baseball players.

Before they started SMART Lab in Palm Beach Gardens, where federal prosecutors said they conspired with Chatman to bilk insurers by conducting unnecessary tests on drug addicts’ urine, Justin Wayne and Hawkeye Hamilton Wayne were both drafted as pitchers by Major League Baseball teams.

Justin, the more successful of the two brothers, was on the Florida Marlins roster when it won the 2003 World Series. Like his teammates, he received one of the 14-carat gold World Series rings that featured a rare teal diamond, 228 diamond chips and 13 rubies. The retail value of the ring was set at $40,000.

Justin’s three-year career for the Marlins, however, never matched the bling of the ring or the acclaim of his youth. On the strength of records he set while pitching at Stanford University, he was a fifth overall pick in the 2000 draft and pocketed a $2.9 million signing bonus from the former Montreal Expos, now the Washington Nationals.

But, after he was traded to the Marlins in July 2002 in a blockbuster deal that included fellow pitcher Carl Pavano and sent Marlins fan favorite left-fielder Cliff Floyd to the Expos, Justin never regained his college form. He spent most of his three years knocking around the minors, playing in only 26 Marlins games, achieving an ERA of 6.13 before being released in July 2004.

Hawkeye Wayne, right, is seen speaking with a neighbor on October 22, 2013, regarding a petition against a proposed stadium. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post) Photo: Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

His older brother, Hawkeye, a standout on the mound for Columbia University, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1999 but only played in the minor leagues before leaving the game in 2002.

The brothers, who founded SMART Lab in Palm Beach Gardens in 2014 with their younger brother, Ethan, now face maximum 10-year prison terms after both pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Both will remain free on bond until they are sentenced Nov. 1.

Ethan Wayne, 36, of West Palm Beach, who played high school ball in the family’s native Hawaii, was charged this week with money laundering for his role in the scheme. He has waived indictment, which typically signals a plea deal is in the works. Like his brothers, he faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted.

Attorneys for Hawkeye, 40, of Palm Beach Gardens, and Justin, 39, of Boca Raton declined comment. In court papers, the brothers admitted they bilked insurers out of nearly $3 million by performing medically unnecessary tests on urine samples of drug addicts who were seeking help at treatment centers operated by Chatman. To keep the samples coming, they paid Chatman kickbacks, federal prosecutors said.

Like others who cashed in on the county’s illicit drug treatment industry, the brothers learned that testing urine was a lucrative business because reimbursement rates from insurers are exceptionally high.

Chatman, who is serving a 27 1/2 year sentence after pleading guilty last year to charges of money laundering, sex trafficking and health care fraud, was described by federal prosecutors as the most dangerous of those who figured out a way to get rich off of recovering drug addicts.

He had sex with patients, plied them with drugs to keep them hooked and turned female clients into prostitutes, prosecutors said. “The amount of suffering is unprecedented,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafana said at Chatman’s sentencing hearing.