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Authorities in South Florida have charged more than 60 sober home and drug treatment center operators with health care fraud over the past year and a half.

 

On Thursday, 27-year-old Albert Jones of Boynton Beach was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison and was ordered to pay $2 million in restitution.

 

House Panel Targets 'Sober Homes'

Feb 7, 2018

Florida would require additional background screening for operators of controversial recovery residences known as “sober homes,” under a bill that cleared a House panel Tuesday.

Peter Haden / WLRN

Widespread incidents of fraud have given the South Florida addiction treatment industry a black eye. Law enforcement has been cracking down — with strong support from the treatment industry’s legitimate providers.

Peter Haden / WLRN

Law enforcement has been cracking down on corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry. State and federal officials have arrested more than 30 people for running scams in rehab centers or sober homes in the past year.

But the facilities are often filled with recovering drug users from out-of-state. And when the homes shut down, the residents frequently wind up on the street.

Wilson Sayre / WLRN News

Local officials are raising concerns about drug use at hurricane shelters, saying they aren't equipped to care for addicts, unaccompanied minors and others with other medical needs.

 

Nearly 16,000 people in nine counties from Indian River to Miami-Dade evacuated to shelters during Hurricane Matthew. Six evacuees seeking refuge at a Delray Beach high school during Hurricane Matthew overdosed on drugs as the dangerous storm approached South Florida. Bags brought to shelters by evacuees are typically not searched.

bigjohn36 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

A South Florida drug treatment provider will spend the next 27.5 years behind bars for operating a multimillion-dollar health care fraud and sex trafficking scheme.

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks handed down the sentence Wednesday at the Federal Courthouse in West Palm Beach. Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman, 47, of Boynton Beach, pleaded guilty in March to the charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña said Chatman was a relatively small provider in the drug treatment industry, but he was, “the most dangerous.”

House Approves Bill Cracking Down On Sober Homes

Apr 27, 2017

A crackdown on sober home corruption took a big step forward on Wednesday after House members unanimously voted to pass a bill strengthening the state's role in prosecuting criminal and regulatory violations.

Delray Beach Police Department

The man had just risen from the dead.

He’s in his mid-20’s. Sitting on a couch in a house in Delray Beach. Pale as a ghost, sweaty, wide-eyed, disoriented.  Like he just woke up from a nightmare.

Bernard Spragg. NZ / via Flickr/Creative Commons

As the addiction recovery industry boomed in South Florida over the past decade, so did the number of recovery residences - also known as sober homes.

Peter Haden / WLRN

Addiction treatment is big business in Palm Beach County.

According to research conducted by the Palm Beach Post, it brings in more than $1 billion a year, making addiction treatment the county’s fourth largest industry – only behind tourism, construction and agriculture.

Local officials are cracking down on corruption in Palm Beach County's sober-home industry.


The man leading the fight against unscrupulous sober homes has a message for state legislators.

“When the appropriations process comes up, please keep us in mind,” said Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg at a meeting with the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation in Boca Raton Tuesday.

Palm Beach County Jail

A sober home operator is under arrest in Palm Beach County following a corruption investigation.

Ehab Iskander, 33, of West Palm Beach, faces six counts of patient brokering. He runs Integrity House, a sober home in Lake Worth. Sober homes — also known as halfway houses — are group living facilities for recovering addicts.

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The federal government is giving cities some new guidance on how far they can go in regulating sober homes.

The Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development issued the joint statement Thursday.

It gives local governments some legal wiggle room to oversee group housing for recovering addicts on a case-by-case basis.

For example, many cities bar more than three unrelated people from living in a single-family home. But sober homes are often given an exemption to that rule because the occupants are considered to be disabled and are protected by federal law.

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