Owner of “Serenity Ranch Recovery” Found Guilty in $38 Million Fraud Scheme
Fort Lauderdale, Florida (March 2020) – After a six-week jury trial Sebastian Ahmed, 42, of Delray Beach, Florida, was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, five counts of health care fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and eleven counts of money laundering. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the co-conspirators took advantage of and exploited vulnerable drug addicts, the most of whom were only 18 to 26 years old; falsified paperwork; and entered into various kickback arrangements, so that they could pocket millions of dollars of falsely and fraudulently obtain fund for their own personal use and benefit. Out of all the co-conspirators, Sebastian Ahmed profited the most, netting more than $2.8 million in just less than a three year period.
Sentencing is scheduled for August 6, 2020. As for the health care fraud and wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy convictions, Amhed defendant faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison per count. As to the health care fraud and money laundering convictions, Amhed faces an additional maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison.
During the trial the government argued that Sebastian Ahmed engaged in illegal billing to private insurance plans through Jacob’s Well prior to the clinic being certified by DCF; provided unlawful inducements to the approximately 500 patients through of free airline travel, free housing, vapes, trips for manicures, cash, and by not collecting patient co-payments and deductibles; and billing for medically unnecessary services consisting of therapy and urine analyses, not all of which were actually provided. Residents were also allowed to live in co-ed housing facilities in which destructive sexual relationships, not conducive to addiction treatment, formed – sometimes even between patients and staff.
Former clinic employees testified during the trial that they wrote up fake progress notes to support fraudulent billing for daily group therapy sessions that residents did not even attend and for dates when residents were not physically present.
The government’s expert witness testified that the way in which Serenity’s medical providers prescribed medications to a drug abusing population was medically inappropriate and potentially quite dangerous. Witnesses testified that Serenity caused patients’ addictions to intensify rather than improve, and that a number of patients actually suffered drug overdoses and relapsed that were not addressed by the clinic staff. The record showed that Sebastian Ahmed never bothered to report even one overdose incident to DCF contrary to law, and that frequently patients were shuttled between detox centers and Serenity without any progress in their condition. Evidence was presented that Serenity allowed and even went so far as to obtain addictive drugs for patients. Patient medical charts showed that doctors did not review the expensive urine screens that were ordered until a considerable time after a patient’s discharge. Many of these urine screens confirmed repeat positives for illicit drugs including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and prescription narcotics.
The government claimed that about $38 million in fraudulent billing were submitted for reimbursement by defendant’s clinics which resulted in the payment of over $6 million.
Al Ahmed, the defendant’s brother was also charged in the case and entered a guilty before the trial began. Al Ahmed was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.