Rehab CEO Charged with Selling Heroin to Clients

By Keri Blakinger 10/09/17

When the 65-year-old made a brief court appearance, he told the judge that he was in withdrawal.

Handcuffed businessman wearing a suit.

The founder of a Pennsylvania drug rehab caught in a DEA investigation is facing federal charges after he allegedly sold heroin and fentanyl to clients from a Pittsburgh-area recovery house. 

David Francis, who heads up Next Step Foundation in McKees Rocks was arrested Friday after feds raided the rehab and his home, reportedly turning up a trove of potent opioids, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

When the 65-year-old made a brief court appearance later that day, he told U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan that he was in withdrawal, the paper reported. 

The investigation kicked off in July, after a slew of reported overdoses in McKees Rocks and the surrounding areas, according to Penn Live. In one case, investigators allege, a man died from opioids purchased from the rehab CEO. 

Next Step Recovery touts itself online as a string of multiple Western Pennsylvania living facilities “where people can build a strong foundation of lasting sobriety and develop the skills to become productive members of society.” 

Over the summer, when feds questioned multiple people who dealt with Francis, they uncovered a different story, according to CBS affiliate KDKA

Investigators claim the CEO was slinging drugs both from inside and outside the facility, and that he allegedly stored large stashes of heroin and fentanyl at his Chartiers Avenue home. KDKA reported that his tax business, All Personal Matters, could possibly be involved in some way, too.

After their raid of the facility on Broadway, feds allegedly uncovered needles and multiple stamp bags in the building. They made similar discoveries in his home closet, prosecutors say.

The allegations shocked at least one neighbor near the facility. Aaron Stubna, who runs a theater across the street, told the CBS affiliate he had no inkling of any illicit activities across the way. 

“You would hope these people are there getting help and to hear they’re being fed more poison, that is disturbing to me,” he added. 

But a woman who answered the door at Francis’s home following his arrest said he was a wonderful man, and offered little comment on the shocking charges against him. 

Francis was jailed following his first court hearing and is due back in front of a judge on Wednesday.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.