Following a six-week trial, the Serenity Ranch Recovery network CEO, Sebastian Ahmed, was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison. After a trial that lasted over a month, a federal court in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, convicted him of several crimes, including health care fraud and money laundering.
Fraud in the Serenity Ranch Network
While the people who came to him needed help for drug or alcohol addiction, the services provided by Serenity Ranch Recovery weren’t meant to keep them sober. The sober home network, like many others in recent years, was a moneymaking venture. Patients tended to be young, addicted adults who were still on their parent’s health plans. They were typically addicted to “hard” drugs such as Oxycontin or heroin.
Rather than receiving treatment, most young people were left to languish with a few 12-step meetings and little else. While this took place, Mr. Ahmed billed the insurance company high rates for services that were not rendered.
Inappropriate / Dangerous Treatment for Addiction
The sober living homes run by Serenity Ranch Recover were illegally operating without a license or inspection by the Florida Department of Children and Families. At the same time, they billed insurers as community housing for substance abuse treatment programs. Oversight, therapy, and medical supervision were missing from the treatment plans for residents. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it came to mismanagement.
One expert testified during the trial that medical providers prescribed buprenorphine, an addictive drug used for pain management, as well as a once-monthly injection that can help keep opioid cravings away. (Medication-assisted treatment is considered effective and safe when monitored by a doctor and used as a part of a treatment recovery plan.)
The same expert said that the doctors providing treatment at the facilities also prescribed benzodiazepines, a sedative/anxiety medication that is highly addictive and creates a high risk of overdose when used alongside opioids. Patients described overdoses and relapses within the walls of Serenity, without any action or acknowledgment by staff.
Conviction and Sentenced
Overall, Sebastian Ahmed was convicted of fraudulently billing private insurance companies for about $38 million in claims while his clients continued to spiral in their addiction. According to prosecutors, he has been sentenced to 17 years and will work to repay more than $4 million in restitution for his Serenity Ranch scheme.