Rehab Racket

A joint investigation by

The Center for Investigative Reporting & CNN

Christina Jewett, CIR, @JewettCIR

Will Evans, CIR, @willCIR

Scott Zamost, CNN, @scottzamostcnn

Drew Griffin, CNN, @DrewGriffinCNN



In California’s drug and alcohol 

rehabilitation program for the poor:

rampant fraud & failed oversight

    • bribing clients with cigarettes
    • billing for "ghost clients"
    • falsely labeling foster kids as addicts
    • felons running taxpayer-funded clinics

Find the Paper


Who regulates? Who are the front-line investigators? Who keeps the best records?

County Audits

County Investigations

Public Records Act Requests

  •  dozens of requests to state and counties
  •  applications for state certification
  •  complaints to state from counselors
  •  internal emails regarding suspect clinics

*test redactions*

Backgrounding with Court Records

  • LexisNexis
  • Courtlink
  • Pacer
  • court websites

Excluded Providers

Database of those barred from participating 
in Medicaid and Medicare:    


If there's no data, make your own
*include lots of fields

Track Themes

organizational tool helps for follow-up stories:

Develop a Methodology

What is the universe?
What is the question?
What distinguishes bad from not bad?

How many SoCal clinics were responsible for fraud?

Red Flags

  •  clients bribed with cigarettes
  • billing when counselors were not at work
  • clients without addiction problems
  • signatures  appeared to be forged
  •  pre-written counseling notes    

Be Conservative

- run it by your co-worker

- involve an editor

- pare down to bullet-proof cases

Find the Whistleblowers

  • Staff lists in audits (who disappeared?)
  • Employment lawsuits
  • Wage claims with state labor department
  • for health providers
  • Social media -- who are their FB friends?

State Wage Claims

Finding Whistleblowers cont.

  • Sign up for Linkedin for Journalists

              • Don’t rule out sources
Be persistent: call back, show up and call back again

Catch the Fraud in Action

The stakeout
 Two reporters sat on a clinic from open to close. 
No more than 30 people went in. 
The clinic billed for 179 clients that day.

Catch the Fraud in Action

Hidden Camera

A receptionist said there was no group therapy.
The clinic billed for 60 clients that day.

Hold Officials Accountable


By willcir


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