The fallout from the February 2017 arrest of treatment-center operator James Tomasso has led to another “patient brokering” arrest, this one of a Lantana man with a long history of drug-related charges, reports show.
Shawtee Oates, 37, who had been listed as a fugitive, was booked late Wednesday at the Palm Beach County Jail. Oates appeared in court Thursday morning and was ordered held in lieu of $150,000 bail — $5,000 for each of 30 counts of fraud and patient brokering — the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office said Friday.
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.
As recently as Thursday morning, Oates still appeared on a list of fugitives posted by Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County, although that was taken down by Friday. Delray Beach police and the sheriff’s office were not able to say Friday how Oates came into custody and whether he was arrested or turned himself in on the arrest warrant.
In February 2017, the Palm Beach County Sober Homes Task Force arrested Tomasso, then 57, of Boca Raton, the owner and director of Global Recovery Resources. Police charged him with paying for referrals to one of his common-law wife’s three treatment centers. The task force’s dealings with Tomasso have led so far to numerous arrests, most recently the October 2017 arrests of six people, the March 29 arrest of Betsy Dieujuste of Boca Raton, and the May 9 arrest of Scott Robert Gillis of Boynton Beach.
According to an April 13 report from Delray Beach police, and made available by Palm Beach County Circuit Court clerks on Friday, the task force discovered 30 checks totaling $32,900 that Tomasso wrote to Oates between April 2016 and January 2017. Tomasso told task force investigators the payments were in exchange for Oates referring clients to one of Tomasso’s treatment centers for detoxification services. Tomasso said he would split a $1,000 fee 50-50 with Oates.
Cellphone records also showed Tomasso and Oates traded both texts and Facebook messages that discussed referrals and subsequent payments.
The report said Facebook postings retrieved by police showed Oates offered either discounted or free rent to clients who used Tomasso’s “intensive outpatient” centers, or IOPs. They also showed he enticed clients with promises of air fare to Florida, cash, cigarettes and toleration of marijuana use.
The messages also showed Oates sold marijuana and opioids “and even solicited addicts for sex; one woman in particular while she was still in treatment,” the report says.
It also says Oates himself was not sober for part of the time he was housing addicts in his sober homes. In one Facebook exchange, a woman writes Oates, “why would I go to an IOP that the owner isn’t even sober when he’s supposed to be in recovery?” Oates answers, “why u giving me a hard time I don’t judge you so why u judging me.”
And in yet other exchange, Oates persuaded women to send him nude photographs, the report said.
State records show Oates is chief executive officer of SLO recovery, with a business address at an apartment complex near Haverhill Road and Okeechobee Boulevard in suburban West Palm Beach. Records show the business is inactive.
Records show Oates, a North Carolina native, had several criminal court appearances in that state around 2011. He was in state prison in North Carolina for 8½ months, getting out in April 2013, on a drug-possession conviction and served probation on 12 misdemeanor charges of misrepresenting himself to gain benefits.