LATEST: Delray man gets probation, fines in patient-brokering scheme

A judge this week ordered three years of probation and hefty fines for one of two men connected to a Delray Beach-area lab linked to kickbacks for urine tests for people in treatment and recovery for substance abuse. Christopher Kristiansen, 27, pleaded guilty Monday morning in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, according to court records. Judge Jeffrey Colbath withheld adjudication...
Inside the Gold Rush

For addicts and alcoholics seeking sobriety, Palm Beach County is ground zero.

Celebrities and pro athletes fly in on private jets. Millennials addicted to heroin and designer drugs are delivered by worried parents. It's a billion dollar industry chiefly fueled by pee in a cup. Yet the industry faces a huge bust if an FBI task force finds evidence of kickbacks, insurance fraud and patient brokering.

The Palm Beach Post takes a hard look at the recovery boom at a make-or-break juncture.



Post investigative reporter to discuss opioid issues on PBS

Post investigative reporter to discuss opioid issues on PBS

The Palm Beach Post’s Pat Beall will appear at 7:30 p.m. Friday on “Your South Florida,” a PBS show on WPBT Channel 2.  The show, hosted by Pam Giganti, will focus on the state’s new opioid prescription law.  Beall’s three-part series, “How Florida ignited the heroin epidemic,” traces the origins of today’s heroin epidemic to the...
Opioid deaths declining? New numbers offer hope, says state attorney

Opioid deaths declining? New numbers offer hope, says state attorney

As the opioid epidemic continues to rage across the United States, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office is embracing two new local statistics as evidence that their efforts to curb the county’s crisis are working. Delray Beach, considered the epicenter of the county’s epidemic, went through the month of June without recording a single opioid-related overdose...
No bond for sober home owner dubbed serial fraudster

No bond for sober home owner dubbed serial fraudster

Ken Bailynson, a former sober home operator described in a federal court on Friday as a serial fraudster, will remain in jail while he awaits trial on charges of money laundering and health care fraud. Federal Magistrate William Matthewman rejected bond, finding that Bailynson is a flight risk and poses an economic danger to the community. During the two-hour bond hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney...
‘Largest health-care fraud’ takedown ever nets 124 in South Florida

‘Largest health-care fraud’ takedown ever nets 124 in South Florida

U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions announced today what he called “the largest health-care fraud takedown in history,” with more than 1,000 law enforcement officers charging 601 people — including 76 doctors, 23 pharmacists, 19 nurses — with more than $2 billion in fraud. The takedown included 124 defendants in South Florida — in locations from Wellington to West Palm Beach...
2 addiction treatment center owners indicted after reaping $50 million

2 addiction treatment center owners indicted after reaping $50 million

Federal prosecutors unsealed indictments on Wednesday charging eight people — sober home and drug treatment owners, employees and a doctor — with health care fraud and money laundering in two of the highest profile investigations in the crackdown on corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry. Kenneth Bailynson, owner of the defunct Good Decisions Sober Living in West Palm...
NEW: Aronberg wins insurance fraud award for sober-homes task force 

NEW: Aronberg wins insurance fraud award for sober-homes task force 

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg received an award this month for his work tackling fraud in the sober home community across the county.  Aronberg received the Apollo award from The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a Washington-based policy and research group, in Orlando on June 5 for his “distinction in combating insurance fraud.” Aronberg helped create the...
Scam or snafu? Popular West Palm addiction counselor accused of fraud

Scam or snafu? Popular West Palm addiction counselor accused of fraud

When Charles Kelty first met Melissa Jerace at a downtown West Palm Beach cafe, he didn’t like her. “She was very cocksure,” he said of the woman with bleached blonde hair who quickly became a regular at Subculture Coffee, a popular gathering spot for recovering addicts who have traded liquor for lattes. As the 50-year-old, seasoned West Palm Beach businessman grew to know...
Man once tied to Boca boiler-room scam netted $600K in sober home scam

Man once tied to Boca boiler-room scam netted $600K in sober home scam

John G. Rizzo once ran a Boca Raton-area operation that federal prosecutors say gamed the stock market. Rizzo did prison time and, when he got out, he allegedly got into a new racket: getting kickbacks for urine tests for people in treatment and recovery for substance abuse. Now three South Florida men already caught last year in the net of the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, face new charges...
JUST IN: Lantana man arrested on 30 counts of patient-brokering

JUST IN: Lantana man arrested on 30 counts of patient-brokering

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...
Wellington father, daughter sentenced in addiction treatment scam

Wellington father, daughter sentenced in addiction treatment scam

A 48-year-old Wellington woman and her father have been sentenced in connection with their operation of Angel’s Recovery, a treatment center that prosecutors described as one of the biggest scams in Palm Beach County’s illicit sober home industry. Despite appeals for a light sentence, Tovah Lynn “Tara” Jasperson was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison by U.S. District Judge...
Riviera slapped with discrimination suit over drug treatment center

Riviera slapped with discrimination suit over drug treatment center

Claiming Riviera Beach officials are violating federal anti-discrimination laws, a New York man is suing the city for stonewalling his plans to establish a 24-bed residential drug treatment center on Singer Island. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court this week, Richard Marshel is asking a federal judge to order city officials to give him the paperwork he needs to establish the treatment...
Powerful fentanyl cousins push rising death toll in Palm Beach County

Powerful fentanyl cousins push rising death toll in Palm Beach County

Early last year, fentanyl’s chemical cousins were killing a Palm Beach County person on average every day. The state hadn’t even been tracking that powerful class of drugs, which include the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, two years earlier. A collection of drugs related to heroin killed 81 Palm Beach County people in just May alone. It took almost all of 2011 and 2012 to kill the same...
Sober home operator sentenced for burglarizing sober homes

Sober home operator sentenced for burglarizing sober homes

A former sober home owner, who pleaded guilty last week to federal charges in connection with health care fraud that has gripped some of Palm Beach County’s drug treatment industry, admitted Tuesday he also was responsible for a string of burglaries at homes where people struggle to beat their addictions. Albert Jones Saye, 29, was sentenced to 5½ years in prison after pleading guilty...
BREAKING: Delray sober-home operator faces patient-brokering charges

BREAKING: Delray sober-home operator faces patient-brokering charges

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...
Boynton woman pleads guilty in connection with sober home scam

Boynton woman pleads guilty in connection with sober home scam

A 56-year-old Boynton Beach woman who is accused of helping a furniture store entrepreneur operate a far-flung and lucrative insurance scam pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Monday to a charge of obstruction of a criminal health care investigation. With her accused partner in crime, John Skeffington, looking on, Mona Montanino pleaded guilty to the charge that stems from yet another scheme...
Today: Gov. Scott in Boynton, Ag Commissioner Putnam in West Palm

Today: Gov. Scott in Boynton, Ag Commissioner Putnam in West Palm

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will visit a Boynton Beach business this morning to tout tax cuts while one of the Republicans who hopes to succeed him, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, will visit West Palm Beach to discuss the opioid crisis. Scott and Putnam are also expected to be in Palm Beach on Friday night for the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day fundraising dinner...
Palm Beach County picks lawyers for possible opioids lawsuit

Palm Beach County picks lawyers for possible opioids lawsuit

Palm Beach County commissioners have selected a team of lawyers to represent the county if it files suit against drug makers and distributors to recoup costs spent battling the opioid epidemic. At the end of an all-day meeting Tuesday, the commissioners selected The Ferraro Law Firm of Miami and a pair of New York City firms, Napoli Skolnik and Stull, Stull and Brody. That team was the only one of...
NEW: Owner of Delray, Lantana sober homes accused of patient brokering

NEW: Owner of Delray, Lantana sober homes accused of patient brokering

The owner of sober homes in Delray Beach and Lantana is facing 16 counts of steering patients to drug-treatment centers operated by his brother, according to an arrest report. Ronald Louis Tomasso, 59, was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on Monday night and was being held on $48,000 bail Tuesday after appearing before Judge Dina Keever-Agrama. James Tomasso, Ronald’s 58-year-old...
Florida Legislature passes plan to battle opioids at session’s end

Florida Legislature passes plan to battle opioids at session’s end

In the waning hours of the annual session, the Florida Legislature approved tough new restrictions Friday on prescription drugs and agreed to spend more than $53 million on treatment and prevention to battle the state’s opioid crisis. Despite the issue being a top priority for the 2018 session, the final vote on the measure (HB 21) almost didn’t come as the Senate and House were at...
Palm Beach County to pick team for possible lawsuit in opioid fight

Palm Beach County to pick team for possible lawsuit in opioid fight

Three teams of law firms have emerged as the finalists to represent Palm Beach County if the county files suit against drug makers or sellers as part of its fight against the opioid epidemic. As the Florida Legislature just passed a bill Friday that will allocate $53 million to the state’s opioid-crisis fight, Palm Beach County commissioners are expected to choose one of those legal teams when...
Florida House approves prescription limits in opioid fight

Florida House approves prescription limits in opioid fight

While the sponsor acknowledged his bill won’t solve the Florida’s problem with opioid abuse, the state House on Thursday unanimously passed a measure that includes imposing prescription limits. “I don’t think it (the problem) is going to completely go away, but I think this is a way for us to fight back,” Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said Thursday as he finished presenting...
Gratitude House sells for $3.3 million; new treatment center to open

Gratitude House sells for $3.3 million; new treatment center to open

A Boynton Beach drug treatment center has paid $3.3 million for the 1.6-acre campus that was home to Gratitude House, a West Palm Beach drug treatment center that welcomed poor and pregnant addicts and their newborns for nearly 50 years. According to court records, 1700 Dixie LLC — a company owned by Denis Holmes, CEO of Beachway Therapy in Boynton Beach — bought the property on Feb. 23...
Lack of site delays PBC emergency room dedicated to opioid overdoses

Lack of site delays PBC emergency room dedicated to opioid overdoses

A plan to open an emergency room dedicated exclusively to opioid overdoses suffered an unexpected setback this week when inspectors rejected the county’s first proposed site. Born of a brainstorming session, the proposed Addiction Stabilization Facility promises to be a “cutting edge” way to address an epidemic that is killing thousands across the United States, including 600 people...
Palm Beach County legislators hopeful on bills to combat opioid crisis

Palm Beach County legislators hopeful on bills to combat opioid crisis

Battling the opioid epidemic is getting lots of attention during the 2018 legislative session – and that’s good news for Palm Beach County. On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott restated his proposal to put up $53 million to help crush the heroin crisis. The next day, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told a group of Palm Beach County business and community leaders that if elected governor he...
BREAKING: Two from Wellington plead guilty to sober-home fraud scheme

BREAKING: Two from Wellington plead guilty to sober-home fraud scheme

Two Wellington residents are facing prison terms after they pleaded guilty in U.S. Federal Court to participating in a multimillion-dollar insurance fraud and money-laundering scheme connected to their ownership of sober homes and a drug-treatment center, the Justice Department said Friday. Tovah Lynn Jasperson, 48, and Alan Martin Bostom, 75, were the owners of Angel’s Recovery, an alcohol-...
Editorial: Other cities should join Delray lawsuit against Big Pharma

Editorial: Other cities should join Delray lawsuit against Big Pharma

The city of Delray Beach has had enough of the opioid crisis. And now, tired of draining its resources against a devastating drug scourge, city officials have taken the audacious step of suing Big Pharma in federal court. The legal action is a long-overdue attempt to recoup millions for fighting a national epidemic. It’s the first Florida city to join a growing number of communities across the...
Editorial: 2018 is time to move from all talk to more action

Editorial: 2018 is time to move from all talk to more action

If talking is the measure of tackling a major issue, 2017 was a year of progress in Palm Beach County. For example, the economic perils of a lack of workforce housing — helped by ever-tightening supply and Millennials’ complaints of sky-high rents — is no longer a tabled discussion. And overdose deaths, thanks in part to The Palm Beach Post’s own coverage, have moved from unheard...

POINT OF VIEW: Treatment is vital to addicts’ recovery

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg testified recently to Congress about sober home abuses. While politicians, prosecutors and many others often speak about the two interchangeably, a sober living facility (aka sober home) is not the same as a substance use disorder treatment center (aka rehab, treatment center). Sober homes are group homes where people who are in recovery live together...
Fentanyl killing more in Florida than heroin: CDC report

Fentanyl killing more in Florida than heroin: CDC report

Drugs like fentanyl are now killing Floridians far faster than heroin and, as America’s opioid epidemic worsened, more Americans died from drug overdoses in one year than were killed in all of the Vietnam War, figures released this week show. The data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 1,566 Floridians died from a class of drugs that includes fentanyl in 2016...
Post reporters win anti-fraud coalition’s award for sober home coverage

Post reporters win anti-fraud coalition’s award for sober home coverage

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a Washington-based policy and research group, awarded its inaugural journalism award for fraud reporting to The Palm Beach Post for its work on fraud in the sober-home industry. Post investigative reporters Pat Beall and Christine Stapleton accepted the award Tuesday at the coalition’s annual meeting in Washington. The coalition praised The Post’s...
State Attorney Dave Aronberg testifies before House panel on opioids

State Attorney Dave Aronberg testifies before House panel on opioids

The congressional representatives sitting on the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations wanted to hear about patient brokering and sober home fraud. Tuesday morning, they got an earful from Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and his chief assistant, Al Johnson. “We have had a surge of unscrupulous individuals who prey on addicts,” said Aronberg. &ldquo...
Boynton doctor practiced for 7 months after drug arrest, 4 OD deaths

Boynton doctor practiced for 7 months after drug arrest, 4 OD deaths

Eighteen months ago, Boynton Beach Dr. Peter Katz took in an ex-patient — a homeless opioid addict. She overdosed in his home, dying later in the hospital. She was the fourth patient of his to die of an overdose in a two-year period, state health department documents show. Law enforcement caught up with Katz about eight months ago, charging him with unlawful prescribing of an opioid after Katz...
Doctor in Kenny Chatman case gets 4-year prison sentence

Doctor in Kenny Chatman case gets 4-year prison sentence

The last holdout in the notorious Kenny Chatman drug-treatment fraud case was sentenced Tuesday to four years in federal prison, short of the time prosecutors sought. Dr. Joaquin Mendez was the medical director for Chatman’s Reflections Treatment Center in Margate between September 2014 and September 2015, responsible for seeing patients and deciding their medical care. But he admitted...
Jeff Clemens: Sex scandal snuffs out Democrat’s political career

Jeff Clemens: Sex scandal snuffs out Democrat’s political career

Jeff Clemens had established himself as a policy expert, an incisive debater and a pro at all of the campaign fine points whose mastery leads to victory on Election Day. His own wall included some choice political pelts — Pete Brandenburg, Mack Bernard and Irv Slosberg, men whose talent, connections or wealth made them formidable opponents who, nonetheless, were defeated by Clemens on his rise...
No water or power? No problem for addicts using drugs in treatment

No water or power? No problem for addicts using drugs in treatment

Addicts living in sober homes operated by Bradley Vercosa complained that sometimes there was no running water, electricity, sheets, bowls or pillows but they stayed anyway because they paid no rent and were allowed to use drugs, according to a police report. Vercosa, 50, of Wellington, was one of six people arrested Thursday and charged with patient brokering, which includes accepting referral...
Medical society joins fight against opioid epidemic in PBC

Medical society joins fight against opioid epidemic in PBC

After an unprecedented 590 opioid-related deaths in Palm Beach County in 2016, Palm Beach County doctors are joining the battle as a group against the opioid epidemic. The Palm Beach County Medical Society Services, a nonprofit that coordinates education and volunteer activities of the county Medical Society, held its first meeting this week to begin working on a medical plan to prevent overdose...
UPDATE: Judge orders no bond for Jupiter sober-home stabbing suspect

UPDATE: Judge orders no bond for Jupiter sober-home stabbing suspect

A Greenacres man arrested this week in connection to stabbings at a sober home housed in a Jupiter townhouse is being held without bond at the Palm Beach County Jail. Ruben Torres made his first appearance in court Thursday morning after being released from Jupiter Medical Center. A judge ordered that Torres, 44, be held without bond on two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. See who&rsquo...
Sober home trafficker Kenny Chatman ordered to pay millions in restitution

Sober home trafficker Kenny Chatman ordered to pay millions in restitution

Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman has agreed to pay back more than $16 million for his fraudulent chain of treatment centers and sober homes, according to an agreement entered in federal court this month. The money will go to 32 insurance companies, with by far the largest amount — nearly $8 million — going to Blue Cross Blue Shield. Under federal court stipulation rules, Chatman will...
Sober home task force seeks 5-day prescription limit, needle exchange

Sober home task force seeks 5-day prescription limit, needle exchange

One day after Gov. Rick Scott announced he would seek a three-day limit on opioid prescriptions, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said he will seek a five-day limit when the Florida Legislature meets in January. The proposed five-day prescription limit is one of eight proposals addressing sober homes that Aronberg presented during a meeting of the county’s legislative delegation...
NEW: Jupiter sober-home owner threatened to throw out stabbed client

NEW: Jupiter sober-home owner threatened to throw out stabbed client

A bout of early-morning drinking at a Christian sober home in Jupiter led to a fight and stabbing early Tuesday and the owner’s arrest, town police records state. Robert Darigo, who describes himself on Facebook as the owner and operator of Christian Recovery Center, reportedly threatened the client who’d been stabbed during a fight at the townhome on Corbison Point Place in...
Three plead guilty to kickbacks in sober home schemes

Three plead guilty to kickbacks in sober home schemes

Three men arrested by the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force have pleaded guilty to multiple counts of patient brokering. James Tomasso, 57, of Boca Raton, pleaded guilty Friday to 21 counts of patient brokering and was sentenced to 18 months in jail and ordered to pay $107,328 in fines. Tomasso was given credit for 225 days he has already served. >>Read complete Post coverage on sober...
Scott to ask lawmakers for 3-day cap on opioid prescriptions

Scott to ask lawmakers for 3-day cap on opioid prescriptions

Gov. Rick Scott will ask lawmakers to impose a three-day limit on opioid prescriptions as part of his initiative to combat the opioid crisis during the upcoming legislative session. Scott’s initiatives — announced at two press conferences on Tuesday — also include requiring all health-care professionals who prescribe controlled substances to participate in the Florida Prescription...
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