It has been dubbed “the Florida Shuffle.” Drug addicts from across the country get lured to the Sunshine State for decades with the promise of treatment, only to be traded from one unscrupulous drug rehab to another. Meanwhile, the patient’s insurance company gets milked for tens of thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges.
Many have overdosed and even died in the process, prompting Florida lawmakers to crack down on the scam.
Now, some bad actors are luring their victims to California, CBS San Francisco reports.
“He called me when he was in treatment and started telling me about California,” said Rich Strickling, who lives in Ohio. He said he had a feeling something was up when his 22-year-old son Alex, a recovering heroin addict, called to tell him he was planning to leave his treatment center in Florida for a new rehab facility in California.
Days later, he got another call: Alex had overdosed and died in a motel room just a few miles from his drug rehab facility.
“Somewhere I was building some type of wall waiting for the day that it happened to my son, but nothing prepares you for that,” said Strickling.
When he learned how the overdose happened, the pain turned to anger. “There was somebody whispering in his ear,” said Strickling.
It turns out that a person Alex met in treatment was offering him money and airfare to switch to a new rehab in Beverly Hills. “I had all the text messages after my son passed away,” said Strickling.
In a first text, a person asked: “Wanna go to Cali?”
“I’ll send you like $200 to get you established out there and on top of that you get 2 packs of smokes a day, haircuts and gym.”
“I’m pretty sure I am down,” Alex responded,
Days passed. Then the messages became more urgent.
“What’s the word homie? You ready? Cali’s calling your name,” the next set of texts said.
Then the person spells out in detail what was needed: “Send me your insurance info and I’ll run it to get you approved.” Another text said, “Send it tomorrow I’ll throw you the cash after 17 days, broski.”
“I trust you lemme get back to you tomorrow with my info,” Alex responded. After Alex sent his insurance information, radio silence followed.
Strickling now knows why. “That same person that does that hard sell on you, they’re going to tell you towards the end of that process that, you know you have to fail your urine test in order for them to justify getting you into treatment,” said Strickling.
It was that relapse that cost Alex his life.