Florida, the “rehab capital of America” has become a dangerous trap for drug addicts needing desperate help. The unfortunate situation many addicts have found themselves in is making them easy targets for insurance fraud. Fake rehabilitation centers have emerged which keep addicts trapped into their own addiction cycles while profiting off their misfortune.
“‘Body snatchers’ or ‘junkie hunters’” in this crime ring, prey on individuals going through a difficult time, have few options, or may be naïve and overly receptive to help. The predators frequent twelve-step meetings around the country or other places addicts congregate, looking for ones in desperate situations and with health insurance.
Recruiters on behalf of the fake rehabs reportedly bribe potential patients with airline flights and luxurious facilities. The patients think it is done out of goodwill, though the con artists are benefitting financially. Some of these institutions will give patients drugs, while others will pay them to relapse, causing their insurance to restart their treatment program and continue the cycle longer.
The worse a patient’s addiction appears to insurance companies, the more money treatment centers receive. In this case, it is of course pocketed. No matter the strategy, it puts addicts in a worse situation every time they use, as they fall deeper into their illness. Addicts who volunteer themselves to these places, thinking they are legitimate rehabilitation clinics, find themselves in an even worse cycle of addiction. The facilities do not encourage any kind of sobriety in their patients, as their continuing drug addiction is what fuels the scam.
The trend takes advantage of not only the national drug epidemic but the healthcare system, which since 2010, covers substance abuse treatment. However, this has created an underground ring of crime, as the recovery industry is not well-regulated. The fraudulent treatment centers are cashing in on payouts by health insurance companies mostly from drug tests. The “flop houses” simply send in urine samples from addicts they are providing drugs to.
Investigations estimate that the fake treatment centers are bringing in millions, and helping none of the patients they are reporting to insurance companies. Realizing that the more medical tests the fake companies claim to insurance companies, the higher the compensation, they began running even more unnecessary procedures such as “STD checks, massage therapy, and pregnancy tests.”
After being lured into such situations and given more drugs, females often end up getting into sex slavery as a result, the cycle referred to as “the Florida shuffle.” The promising treatments centers are in reality epicenters for sexual assault. As addicts become even more addicted to their drugs of choice and dependent on the shelter from these “flop houses,” they become a form of barter between other fake treatment centers nearby.
One girl, “Simone,” tells her horror story that began when she was nineteen-years-old and addicted to crack and heroin. She met a junkie hunter eager to help and was eventually passed around to 45 different so-called treatment centers in just three years. The fake treatment centers kept her addicted the entire time, all while billing her insurance company.
This horrifying chain reaction is a combination of “money laundering, insurance fraud, and sex trafficking,” combined into one crime which turns helpless people looking to turn their situations around into victims. While under this false care, addicts are often locked inside as slaves, unable to escape, where they are sexually assaulted repeatedly.
This is a frightening situation for those who seek Florida as a place to get their life back together. It is appealing for a rehab location because it is relatively affordable, and in some places, have a vacation-type of environment which makes for a relaxing retreat. It may also be hard to tell which facilities are legitimate and which are not, as there is an abundance of resources in the Sunshine State.
Unfortunately, this will be a difficult series of crimes to catch from insurance records alone. It may be difficult to prove that addicts are relapsing with help, or if they are at a legitimate rehab and are simply not taking their recovery seriously. Addicts so far into their addiction may even cover for their fake treatment homes because that is where the drugs are.
Further discomforting is that while Florida, specifically the Delray Beach area is the heart of the scam, no region is safe from the abuse. The crime rings falsifying recovery centers have expanded from Florida into other states, notably California, Arizona, and North Carolina. Until they are stopped, law enforcement expects the problem to worsen.
In any case, this is a devastating epidemic, which has unfortunately caused criminals to prey on the sick. It is bad enough that so many Americans are dealing with drug addictions as it is; even worse, some are benefitting from their suffering. Law enforcement has their hands full in the effort to prevent further loss of lives from drug addiction, and the trauma inflicted on those most vulnerable.