South Florida Sober Home Operator Sentenced To 27 1/2 Years, Crackdown Continues

By Zachary Siegel 05/18/17

The lengthy sentence comes just one week after Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force arrested its 26th offender. 

Judge about to bang gavel on sounding block in the court room as defendant hangs head.

The poster boy for South Florida’s corrupt treatment industry, Kenneth “Kenny” Chatman was sentenced to 27 and a half years in prison on Wednesday for running a health care fraud scheme that raked in millions of dollars off the backs of addicted patients he was supposedly treating. 

Chatman also pleaded guilty to money laundering and human trafficking. 

One of Chatman’s trafficking victims, a 22-year-old woman, described in a handwritten letter to Judge Donald Middlebrooks how she was kidnapped and raped under his watch. 

“Men came in and paid him money to rape me,” she wrote. “He had me extremely intoxicated on unknown sedatives and substances that I was going in and out of consciousness but was completely aware of myself being raped, molested, emotionally, mentally, physically, sexually abused and verbally demeaned. I recall close to 150 in total different faces of rapists abusing me daily over a period of 3 to 4 weeks." 

Some of Chatman’s victims, who died from overdoses in his unsupervised sober homes, no longer have voices. But their families stood in to tell their tragic stories. 

“I'm satisfied with the sentence for the most part. He will have lots of time to think about the lives he has ruined,” Jennifer Flory, whose 25-year-old daughter Alison died from a heroin overdose at one of Chatman’s shady sober houses, told The Fix

News of Chatman’s sentence came just a week after the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force arrested four addiction treatment providers in 24 hours, for their involvement in operating drug-testing laboratories that rake in millions by swindling the insurance of patients. 

Three of the men arrested were connected to a urine lab, called Impact Q Testing. The scam, which works by charging insurance companies exorbitant fees for unnecessary drug screens, netted $2 million between August 2016 and February, according to bank records uncovered by Task Force investigators. 

These arrests, which are charged as third-degree felonies, mark the first time that Florida’s patient-brokering statute has been used to prosecute lab owners, said Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg at a press conference on Thursday. 

“You cannot clean up the industry without cleaning up the labs,” Aronberg said, adding that the sober home task force has now arrested a total of 26 players in South Florida’s crooked treatment industry. 

Aronberg assured future arrests are in the works, and that the Task Force has many more sketchy players in its crosshairs. 

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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