Counselor Pleads Guilty In Sober Home Fraud, Admits Patients Often Used Drugs In Treatment
Federal authorities on Wednesday identified a Wellington counselor as a defendant in a wide-ranging federal investigation into abuse inside some South Florida sober homes.
Dr. Barry Gregory, 62, admitted he knew as many as 90 percent of the patients under his care continually tested positive for drugs while in treatment — and that his boss was “advising” them to do it — according to a plea agreement.
Gregory pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and knowingly falsifying a matter involving health care benefit programs. Defense attorney Valentin Rodriguez said Gregory surrendered himself to authorities.
“He has accepted responsibility and he’s been working diligently with the government for several months,” Rodriguez said.
Gregory is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the case, which so far has led to charges against him and seven other defendants.
The arrests are part of a federal investigation that targeted sober homes and drug-treatment centers founded by Kenneth Chatman, 46, of Boynton Beach, Michael Bonds, 45, of Delray Beach, and Fransesia Davis, 44, of Lake Worth.
The businesses offered illegal kickbacks to patients and sober home owners, coerced residents into prostitution, threatened violence against patients, and submitted urine and saliva for screening even when no medical need existed, federal investigators allege.
Chatman hired Gregory, a licensed mental health counselor, to serve as the clinical director for Reflections Treatment Center in Margate and Journey to Recovery LLC in Lake Worth, according to the plea agreement.
As the clinical director, Gregory was responsible for supervising treatment services and reviewing the work of his employees.
Although Gregory knew many of his patients continued to use drugs, he and his staff often allowed the behavior to continue, according to documents from the plea agreement.
Other times, Chatman would overturn Gregory’s recommendations for patients to leave treatment so they could continue to bill patients’ insurance plans, according to the agreement.
The plea agreement said Gregory also knew:
- Chatman paid illegal kickbacks and bribes to sober home owners for patient referrals.
- Cigarettes, free rent and other items were paid to patients in return for attending treatment.
- Chatman decided which patients were allowed to be admitted and discharged, although that was officially Gregory’s job.
- Chatman was charging insurance companies for unnecessary drug testing.
- Employees forged documents designed to make it appear as though patients attended treatment, even when they weren’t.
Chatman is currently in jail awaiting trial.
Federal prosecutors filed court records last week updating the judge on the status of the case and listing some of the evidence that has been turned over to the defense.
Prosecutors notified the judge that they are still in discussions with lawyers for the remaining defendants to figure out which defendants may enter into plea agreements or go to trial.