South Florida

Couple who ran prostitutes out of illegal sober homes imprisoned after pocketing millions

A South Florida couple who operated illegal alcohol and drug treatment centers — and even recruited patients as prostitutes — will be going to prison after swindling $5.5 million from federal and private insurers.
A South Florida couple who operated illegal alcohol and drug treatment centers — and even recruited patients as prostitutes — will be going to prison after swindling $5.5 million from federal and private insurers. Getty Images/iStockphoto

A South Florida couple who operated illegal alcohol and drug treatment centers — and even recruited patients as prostitutes — have been sentenced to prison after swindling $5.5 million from federal and private insurers.

Kenneth Chatman, 46, of Boynton Beach, was sentenced to 27 years after pleading guilty in March to conspiracy charges involving healthcare fraud, sex trafficking and money laundering. His wife, Laura Chatman, 44, also pleaded guilty but to lesser charges of making false statements.

At the couple’s sentencing hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks listened to parents of children who suffered overdoses, including fatalities, before issuing their prison terms.

“Instead of helping his patients to achieve sobriety, Chatman exploited the vulnerable victims to satisfy his personal greed,” Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg said in a statement. “He provided drugs to addicts, solicited and accepted kickbacks and bribes, and used his position of power to sexually exploit his patients.”

According to an indictment, Chatman set up a network of sober homes, including Stay'n Alive, Inc., and Total Recovery Sober Living in Palm Beach and Broward counties, as purported treatment centers between 2012 and 2016. Instead, he conspired with his wife and other employees to provide reduced rent, gift cards and controlled substances to patients, who in turn received ineffective and unnecessary services so that the centers could bill federal and private insurers for millions.

Prosecutors said that while Chatman's residences were supposed to be drug free, he and other employees allowed the patients to continue using drugs as long as they attended treatment sessions and submitted to drug testing.

In two instances, Chatman's wife was falsely listed as the owner of Reflections Treatment Center in Margate and Journey to Recovery in Lake Worth to hide the fact that her husband, a convicted felon, managed all aspects of these facilities.

Chatman and other employees also recruited female patients to engage in prostitution at the treatment centers or at hotels and motels, prosecutors said. Chatman provided housing and drugs to the women, who were pressured to “perform sex acts in exchange for money” that would have to be paid to Chatman as “rent,” they said.

Local, state and federal law enforcement investigated the case, which was led by Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Marie Villafana.

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