The raid was the first of two conducted under Operation Thoroughbred, a task force headed by the
In large portions of the county's
But days, weeks, months and now, two years, have passed with no arrests. No Bentleys seized or property confiscated. The epic comeuppance never arrived. Shady business practices quietly resumed.
Instead of a long list of federal indictments, efforts to address corruption largely have been driven in the past two years by vigilante addicts, parents, attorneys, non-profit groups and insurance companies -- those who consider themselves the victims of fraud. Frustrated with the government's inaction, some took it upon themselves to police the industry.
"These raids are two years ago," said
Law enforcement officials offered no public response when Cigna announced in October that it was leaving
The insurance giant said it also had evidence that insurance brokers used multiple common addresses in
Disillusionment grew when the state
The frustration spawned a vigilante movement on social media.
In March, R.J. Vied, a recovering alcoholic, used Facebook to organize a protest outside a sober home complex in
"Looking for some volunteers to assist me in getting rid of a trap/halfway today. 3 overdosed this week," Vied posted on Facebook on
More than two dozen recovering addicts showed up. Within a week, a landlord evicted the sober home business operating out of the complex.
Meanwhile, other recovering addicts took to Facebook to expose the shady practices of some sober home operators. They created accounts with fictitious names such as
Facebook responded by suspending the accounts after receiving complaints from those under attack. But within days new accounts popped up on Facebook. Thousands of young, recovering addicts posted their own experiences. Despite numerous threats of lawsuits and violence against him,
"Immoral and illegal marketers and managers, fear us, and fear God. For God sees all that you do. And he has given us THOUSANDS of eyes. Stay tuned, folks, and stay safe,"
"I said that's it," said Kunzelman, now seven years clean and sober. Kunzelman co-founded Rebel Recovery, a non-profit dedicated to helping addicts stay alive even if they don't quit their habit. Among the techniques: needle exchanges and Narcan training.
"One of the biggest things Rebel Recovery was founded on was, if the government won't do it, we will," Kunzelman said. "If they're not going to protect addicts, we will."
"We said, 'Look man, whatever help you need,'" Kunzelman recalled. "We thought the patient brokers had finally gotten the ire of the feds."
Three months later, the task forced raided Halfway There and Real Life Recovery, a treatment center and sober housing business in
"When it happened we were excited,"Kunzelman said. "Someone is finally doing something to clean up the industry."
Fear rocked the industry. Some operators began selling their businesses. Others closed their labs or cut back on the urine drug tests billed to insurance companies.
"There was a mad scramble," said Kunzelman, now the director of business development at
In particular, FARR declared that "case management fees" -- money commonly paid by treatment providers to sober homes for clients -- are "a clear violation" of
Already, FARR has revoked the certification for several sober homes for accepting case management fees, Lehman said. Other sober homes seeking certification have withdrawn their application after learning of FARR's position, Lehman added.
As for the ongoing investigations, Lehman said, "While we applaud efforts of state and federal law enforcement agencies, we are admittedly frustrated by the fact that no arrests, much less convictions, have as yet emerged."
Cigna, the insurance company that offered the most lucrative policy for drug abuse treatment, also acted while the investigation continued. The company launched wholesale audits of the claims submitted by drug treatment providers and refused to pay millions until they could prove the treatment and urine drug tests were medically necessary.
Addicts who had filed claims were told they must provide evidence, such as a utility bill, to prove that they were
Local law enforcement agencies, made aware of shady sober homes by angry neighbors and code enforcement officers, also waited for the task force. Hobbled by the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination against people with disabilities such as addiction, local police and paramedics focused on saving lives and keeping drugs off the streets.
Goldman is particularly encouraged by the sober home task force, established by the Legislature and launched
"In two years I haven't seen it get any better," Goldman said. "On the good news front, I do feel more confident. ... Now, let's see some results. If not, I'll have to change my tune."
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