Legislature agrees two former PBC students can be paid for horrific injuries

Two former Palm Beach County high school students – one who was horrifically injured when a tire exploded in his shop class at Seminole Ridge High School – are poised to get money from the School Board to pay for their injuries.

Dustin Reinhardt holds his dog Deedee while visiting his home in Loxahatchee in 2014. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

In a lopsided vote of 117-2, the Florida House on Wednesday gave the final nod to an unusual bill that directs the School Board to pay Dustin Reinhardt $4.7 million for injuries he sustained in the 2013 explosion in his auto shop class. Now 20 and living in an assisted living facility, Reinhardt lost an eye and suffered severe brain damage in the accident. He has already received $300,000 from the school district.

The bill also allows the School Board to pay $790,000 to Altavious Carter, who broke his neck in a 2005 traffic accident caused by a school bus driver. Carter, now 25, was a 14-year-old freshman basketball standout at the former Summit Christian School when the crash occurred.

Altavious “Tae” Carter before he enrolled in Eckerd College in St. Petersburg in 2013. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Since the Florida Senate passed the measure 31-5 on Monday, the bill is  headed to Gov. Rick Scott for his approval.

In Florida, the Legislature must approve any payments over $300,000 before government agencies can pay people who are injured by wrongdoing. The measures are known as claims bills.

In addition to awarding money to the two young men, the Legislature also ordered the Florida Department of Children & Families to pay $3.75 million to Victor Barahona. He was was found near death in a van along Interstate 95 in Lake Worth in 2011. Both he and his 10-year-old twin sister, Nubia, had been sprayed with pesticides. Nubia Barahona didn’t survive.

Officials at DCF admitted ignoring years of evidence of severe abuse and neglect at the children’s Miami home. The adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, are awaiting trial on murder and attempted murder charges.

Former Florida Sen. J. Alex Villalobos, a lawyer who now works as a lobbyist, persuaded the legislature to combine what had been two separate bills into one measure for Reinhardt and Carter. In his 25 years of watching the legislature, he said he has never seen it combine two claims bills. Without it, he said it is likely Carter, who in 2010 was awarded $1 million for his injuries by a Palm Beach County jury, would have been forced to wait yet another year.

Attorney Brian Denney, who represented Carter, said he was pleased the bill passed both chambers. But, having waited seven years, he said he wasn’t celebrating until Scott’s signature is affixed to the measure.

Carter, who also played at Grandview Prep, earned a college scholarship to play basketball. But, medical experts said, the injuries he suffered will force him to have additional surgery as he ages.

With two days left in the legislative session, a former Wellington youth, identified only has C.H.M, is still waiting to see if the legislature will pass a bill that would allow him to recover $5 million from DCF. A jury in 2013 agreed the state child welfare agency was negligent when it failed to warn his parents that a foster child they brought into their home was a predator.

The money is to help C.H.M. deal with psychological problems he suffers as a result of being sexually assaulted by the foster child, also the victim of horrific abuse.

This year appears to be a good ones for claims bills. In some recent legislative session, none have been approved.

 

WPB strip club sued for about $1.8 million for using models’ photos

A West Palm Beach strip club owes eight California models as much as $1.8 million for using their photos to lure customers without their permission, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

T’s Lounge Gentlemen’s Club has been sold and now is called Ultra Gentlemen’s Lounge.(Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

In the lawsuit against Ultra Gentlemen’s Lounge, Miami attorney Sarah Cabarcas Osman claims the eight women are top-flight models and business women who never authorized the club on Congress Avenue to use their photos in promotional advertisements.

The club, formerly operated as T’s Lounge, “gained an economic windfall by using the images of professional and successful models for (its) own commercial purposes,” Osman wrote. In addition to not being paid, the woman “sustained injury to their images, brands and marketability by shear affiliation with Ultra Lounge and the type of club (it is),” she wrote.

In an affidavit attached to the lawsuit, a Los Angles modeling agent estimated the club owes the women $1.78 million for using their photos.

The lawsuit is similar to one Osman filed in 2015 against the owner of Cheetah Gentlemen’s Club on behalf of nine other models. The lawsuit filed against Faneuil Entertainment, a Pompano Beach company that owns Cheetah strip clubs in West Palm Beach, Pompano and Hallandale Beach, has been heavily litigated. It is still pending.

The manager of Ultra Gentleman’s Lounge wasn’t immediately available for comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Salomon Melgen made and lost millions by multi-dosing elderly patients

Dr. Salomon Melgen’s practice of using a single vial of a drug to treat multiple elderly patients for a wet macular degeneration went from being a bonanza to a bust, according to those who testified Wednesday in the Palm Beach County ophthalmologist’s trial on 76 charges of health care fraud.

Dr. Salomon Melgen, 62, arrives at the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach this week.(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

When the U.S. Supreme Court two weeks ago refused to hear Melgen’s appeal in his long-running dispute with federal health regulators, it dashed his hopes of recouping millions he repaid Medicare when it claimed he wrongly used one vial of the pricey drug Lucentis to treat as many as four patients, a practice known as multi-dosing.

But federal prosecutors, who claim Melgen bilked Medicare out of as much as $105 million by multi-dosing, misdiagnosing and mistreating scores of elderly patients, said millions more are at stake.

The high court’s decision means Melgen won’t be able to get back the $8.9 million he repaid Medicare for multi-dosing patients at clinics in West Palm Beach, Wellington, Delray Beach and Port St. Lucie in 2007 and 2008. But, Medicare officials also want the wealthy, politically-connected retinal specialist to repay another roughly $32 million for multi-dosing patients from 2009 to 2013.

An attorney, whose Washington-based firm has been paid about $5 million to represent Melgen in his unsuccessful legal battle with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, told a federal jury that Melgen is appealing the agency’s claims that he owes it additional money. The appeals, attorney Alan Reider acknowledged, could stretch on for years.

Melgen’s attorneys – including one that works for the same Washington, D.C. law firm as Reider – argued that Melgen’s practice of multi-dosing didn’t cost the Medicare program a dime. Had Melgen bought separate vials of Lucentis for each of his patients, the agency would have reimbursed Melgen roughly $2,000 for each one.

But, prosecutors countered, the practice was lucrative for Melgen. Instead of buying separate vials of Lucentis for three or sometimes four patients, he bought one. But he was reimbursed as if he bought one for each patient.

That means if he used one vial to treat three patients, instead of getting back roughly $2,000 for a single vial, he got back about $6,000. If he used it to treat four patients, he got nearly $8,000.

The trial, which began last month, continues today. Melgen also faces corruption charges in New Jersey along with his longtime friend, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. His multi-dosing of Lucentis, and Menendez’s attempts to intervene in his dispute with federal regulators, figure into the prosecution’s case there as well.

 

Six things to know about WPB federal judge who ruled against Trump

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra, 65, has been on the federal bench in West Palm Beach since 2002 when he was appointed by Gov. George W. Bush. Here’s a short biography:

Trump ordered to pay $5.77 million to members of Jupiter club

Federal judge to Trump: No disrespect intended

WASHINGTON...Judge Kenneth Marra, left, is sworn-in Thursday during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination to the U.S. District Court. Standing with Marra is David Cerone, right, nominated for District Court Judge of the Western District of Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rick McKay/Cox Washington Bureau) ORG XMIT: COX ORG XMIT: MER0704270031591631
Judge Kenneth Marra, left, is sworn into office in 2002.
  • After his nomination by Bush to a newly-created seat, he was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 82-0.
  • He served as a Palm Beach County circuit judge from 1996-2002.
  • A native of Queens, N.Y., he graduated from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1973 and from Stetson University College of Law in 1977.

Trump in Palm Beach: The latest on protests planned Saturday

  • A devout Roman Catholic, he has eight adult children.
  • He will preside in the upcoming health-care fraud trial of Palm Beach County ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. Separately, Melgen faces corruption charges in New Jersey with his longtime pal U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey.
  • Some of Marra’s other notable cases include: Joseph Zada, who was convicted of mail fraud for stealing at least $37 million from an estimated 45 victims, including former NHL hockey star  Sergei Fedorov. He is also handling a case in which victims of sexual abuse by Palm Beach resident Jeffrey Epstein are accusing federal prosecutors of violating the Victims’ Rights Act by not telling them about the non-prosecution agreement they signed.

Read more Donald Trump coverage from The Post 

Boca attorney again asks court to declare Trump mentally unfit

A Boca Raton probate and guardianship lawyer has renewed his efforts to have Donald Trump declared mentally unfit to serve as president of the United States.

Donald Trump
New U.S. President Donald Trump

Attorney James Herb said Trump’s actions over the last 10 days – fighting over the size of the crowd at his inauguration, insisting he really won the popular vote and inciting international turmoil with an immigration ban – reinforce his earlier claims that part-time Palm Beach resident is delusional.

A similar guardianship petition Herb filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in the run-up to the November election was thrown out by Circuit Judge Jaimie Goodman. As a state court judge, Goodman said he had no power to block Trump’s candidacy or remove him from office. Further, he ruled, Herb didn’t have a relationship with Trump that would allow him to ask that the real estate tycoon be declared incompetent.

Herb said he has addressed those legal obstacles in a new petition filed Monday. “I did not have a relationship with him but I now do because he’s my president,” Herb said.

Further, he said, he’s not asking a judge to remove Trump from office. That would be done in accordance with a process outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

Herb said he is simply asking a judge to appoint a team of experts to evaluate the new chief executive’s mental health. If Trump is found incompetent by the three-person panel, the judge could then limit his activities.

In the petition, Herb is asking that Trump be barred from “seeking or retaining employment.” In an asterisks, he notes that he is asking Trump be prohibited from “retaining employment as President of the United States.” If a judge agrees to the limitation, the order would be forwarded to federal officials capable of removing him from office.

As he did in the previous petition, Herb claims Trump exhibits signs of narcissism and histrionic personality disorder. Both are recognized as mental illnesses by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Since taking office, Trump has also exhibited signs of being delusional, Herb wrote.

Herb, who was criticized as a publicity-hound after filing the first petition in October, said his actions aren’t part of some self-serving publicity stunt. A longtime guardianship and probate lawyer, he said his practice is now primarily limited to wills and trusts.

“I’m not interested in getting business. I have plenty of business,” he said.

His goal, he said, is much more far-reaching. “I’m trying to save the world,” he said.

He is not alone in his suspicion that Trump is mentally unfit to be president. A group calling itself “We The People,” on Sunday started an online petition to “Demand Congress Require an Independent Expert Panel Determine the President’s Psychiatric Stability to Protect America.” If they get 99,999 signatures by Feb. 28, the White House by law has to respond.

 

Prosecutors, clerks to host workshop on sealing, expunging records

tmpNSWfqS-mdly-photoRemember that old criminal charge you’ve always wanted to get removed from your record?

The Palm Beach County court system has a workshop for that.

Officials from the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office, Palm Beach County Clerk of Court and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday will host a second sealing and expunging workshop for people seeking to have an arrest removed from their record.

Sheriff’s officials in a flyer list eligible participants as people who were ever charged with a crime in a Palm Beach County case that did not result in conviction, adding that people who fit that criteria may be able to a get a single arrest record sealed or expunged.

“Our community becomes safer when those who are eligible under the law for sealing and expungement can get their lives back on track and become successful members of our society,” Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said in a press release this week.

The workshop will be held Thursday on the first floor of the main courthouse at 205 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, from 3:00 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Workshop attendees should bring the following:

  1. A Florida driver’s license, Florida issued photo I.D. or U.S. Passport.
  2. A completed “State Attorney’s Preliminary Application for Sealing/Expungement Eligibility,” which can be found at sa15.org.
  3. Any copies of old paperwork available on the arrest. If the case occurred before 2008, call ahead so the clerk has a few days to locate the old file.

For more questions, contact Angel at 561-355-7373 or Lidis at 561-355-7313

Judge paves way for trial against Donald Trump over Jupiter golf club take-over

Donald Trump is likely to be forced to take a break in his campaign for president next month to appear in federal court in West Palm Beach to explain why he hasn’t returned an estimated $6 million to members of his country club off Donald Ross Road.

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra this week paved the way for a trial to begin on August 15 by denying Trump’s request to throw out the lawsuit filed by those who were members of the club before the businessman-turned-TV-celebrity-turned-GOP-presidential-nominee bought it for $5 million in 2012.

In the 12-page ruling, Marra said there were “genuine questions of material fact regarding whether (Trump) breached the contract” with members of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter by refusing to return their deposits, which ranged from $35,000 to $210,000. That means, he said, the lawsuit must be decided by a jury.

Members claim that Trump changed the rules once he bought the club from the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa, which had been losing as much as $4.2 million annually trying to keep it afloat. Under the previous rules, members could continue to pay their dues and use the club even after announcing their intentions to resign. Once a new member signed up, however, their hefty deposits were to be refunded.

Shortly after taking over the ailing club in a gated community off Donald Ross Road near Alternate A1A, Trump announced to those on the resignation list: “you’re out.”

In a December 2012 letter to club members, he wrote, the rules had to be changed to assure the club became the “ultra-prestigious club” he envisioned.

Therefore,  he explained, “if a person is on the resignation list, the membership does not want them to be an active member of the club — likewise as the owner of the club, I do not want them to utilize the club nor do I want their dues.

“In other words,” he continued, “we are committed to seeing Trump National Golf Club – Jupiter on the list of the best clubs in the world and if you choose to remain on the resignation list, you’re out.”

Shortly after, members said they were barred from using the club. Further, they claim, club officials have refused to return their deposits as they were required to do under their membership contracts with the Ritz.

At a hearing in March, Trump attorneys argued that the disgruntled members were denied entry because they hadn’t paid their dues. Further, they argued, Trump offered them attractive options to remain members.

If they agreed to give up their deposits, their annual dues would drop to $17,500 for three years and they would also get the use of 14 other Trump clubs around the country, including Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach. Those who didn’t “opt-in” would see their annual dues jump to $21,500 and they wouldn’t get the chance to use other Trump facilities, according to the letter.

The options, those who filed suit claimed, constituted a breach of contract because it changed the terms of the long-standing agreement they had when they joined the club.

But, Trump attorneys countered, the club didn’t refuse to refund the deposits. Under another plan, longtime members would get their deposits back once new members signed up. Those who filed suit simply wanted to jump to the front of a very long line, they argued.

Marra said there is a true difference of opinion regarding the new rules. The disagreement turns on various details, such as the definition of such terms as “recall of the membership,” he wrote. That, he said, will be up to a jury to decide.

PBC eye doctor Salomon Melgen needs $2 million more to pay defense team

Prohibited by court order from tapping into his fortune, Palm Beach County ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen is running out of money to pay lawyers to represent him on charges that he bilked Medicare out of as much as $108 million.

Dr. Salomon Melgen exits the Palm Beach County jail with his wife Flor, left, and daughter, Melissa, right, in July. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Dr. Salomon Melgen leaves the Palm Beach County jail with his wife Flor, left, and daughter, Melissa, right, in July 2015. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

In court papers filed this week, Melgen’s lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra to let the physician use $2 million to pay mounting legal bills which they described as “substantial.”

In addition to facing 76 counts of health-care fraud and related charges in West Palm Beach, Melgen is charged in New Jersey with his longtime friend, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, in connection with what federal prosecutors describe as a mutually beneficial bribery scheme. He is also continuing to challenge the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about his use of a single vial of Lucentis to treat multiple patients for macular degeneration – a practice known as “multi-dosing.”

“These are three complex and highly contested cases involving extensive motion practice and briefing,” his attorney Matthew Menchel and Kirk Ogrosky wrote, explaining their client’s need for cash.

With federal prosecutors describing the 61-year-old native of the Dominican Republic as a flight risk, U.S. Magistrate James Hopkins last year made sure Melgen couldn’t get his hands on his money, boats or private jet before allowing him to be released from jail. Hopkins ordered him and his family to post a whopping $18 million bond package. To assure his cash was off-limits, Hopkins appointed an escrow agent to pay his personal expenses, including his $2.3 million waterfront home in Captain’s Key near Juno Beach.

In making the request, Menchel and Ogrosky emphasized that Melgen, who treated hundreds of primarily elderly patients at eye clinics in West Palm Beach, Wellington, Delray Beach and Port St. Lucie, won’t have access to the $2 million. It will be paid directly into one of the lawyer’s trust accounts, they said.

“Releasing funds for the purpose of allowing him to pay counsel will not alter his incentives for appearing at trial, because the released funds will not be available for Dr. Melgen’s personal use,” they wrote.

 

Dr. Phil files $250 million defamation suit against American Media

Saying he and his wife are sick and tired of relentless character assassination, the nation’s most famous psychologist is going after the nation’s most famous tabloid publisher in a $250 million lawsuit filed this month in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 07: Dr. Phil McGraw speaks during the taping of his television show, announcing "Little Kids Rock Across America" at Paramount Pictures Studios on December 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Dr. Phil McGraw (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

In the 42-page lawsuit, Phillip McGraw, better known to daytime TV audiences simply as “Dr. Phil,” claims the Boca Raton-based National Enquirer and its sister publications have fabricated “salacious and offensive” stories about him and his philanthropist wife, Robin, to shore up their sagging bottom lines.

Since 2003, American Media, the parent company of the Enquirer, Star Magazine and Radar Online, has published more than 85 articles – roughly six per year – accusing the couple of being frauds, according to the lawsuit filed by West Palm Beach attorney J. Grier Pressly III and Atlanta lawyer L. Lin Wood.

While the wealthy couple has built a reputation as tireless crusaders against domestic violence, in dozens of articles AMI has falsely claimed their home life is far from idyllic, the attorneys wrote. With no facts to support the allegations, they have published stories portraying Dr. Phil as an abuser and his wife as a pitiful victim.

“The National Enquirer falsely and maliciously defamed Mrs. McGraw by conveying to the average reader that she is a fraud and professional hypocrite suffering from the very same spousal abuse that she so fervently campaigns and advocates against,” the attorneys wrote, describing a series of what they called “sleazy tabloid practices.”

The motivation for the attacks is no mystery, they claim. Reporting $17 million more in liabilities than assets on its Dec. 31 quarterly report, AMI needs money, they said.

“Confronted with financial difficulties, declining circulation, and the need for cash flow, AMI has shamelessly and unlawfully sought to generate revenues by misappropriating and capitalizing on the McGraws’ names,” the attorneys wrote.

Officials at AMI didn’t return a phone call for comment. But it has shown no sign of backing down.

In articles published online this week, all three publications trumpeted a six-year-old story about a federal judge in California blasting Dr. Phil as a “charlatan” for inviting a couple on his show to brag about shoplifting more than $1 million. The judge made her comments during the couple’s sentencing hearing.

On Monday, the 2010 story was new again on the National Enquirer’s website. “Dr. Phil is a ‘charlatan’ and a ‘terrible, terrible man!’ A California judge branded him all that and more … and The National ENQUIRER has all the details,” it wrote.

In the lawsuit, attorneys representing the McGraws said such tactics are typical. The publications have repeatedly rehashed old stories and embellished them either by leaving out key facts or fabricating them entirely, the attorneys claim.

In February, they claim, AMI threatened to run a story that Dr. Phil, while a student at Texas Tech University, got into a drunken brawl at a bar and smashed a beer mug over a fellow patron’s head. However, the attorneys claim, the bar where the fight allegedly took place didn’t open until 1977 – six years after Dr. Phil attended the Texas school. Further, they claim, the bar didn’t get a liquor license until 2009 – 38 years after the doctor left.

“The utter, flagrant, demonstrable falsity of that story epitomizes AMI’s abuse of the First Amendment,” they wrote.

The recent stories AMI published also violate a 2012 agreement hashed out after the McGraws then threatened to file a defamation suit, the attorneys said. In exchange for dropping the suit, the company agreed not to publish any more articles about them. When the two-year agreement expired, the attorneys claim, AMI threatened to publish the story about the bar brawl.

Unlike their claims about AMI, the McGraws don’t need the money. Both have written best-selling books. In 2015, Forbes said Dr. Phil earned $70 million that year. It ranked him the 15th highest earning celebrity in the world.

Lake Worth man, serving a 270-year sentence, wins chance for freedom

A Lake Worth man who is serving a 270-year sentence for a series of violent home invasion robberies he committed when he was 17 will benefit from a U.S. Supreme Court decision that juvenile offenders must be given hope that they may one day live outside prison walls.

Ramon Rosario (Florida Department of Corrections)
Ramon Rosario (Florida Department of Corrections)

Ramon Rosario, who was implicated in the 2010 murders of two clerks at a Circle K in Greenacres, wasn’t handed a life term that the high court declared unconstitutional for juveniles, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath said at a brief hearing on Wednesday.

But the total sentence Rosario received after pleading guilty to 15 charges, including racketeering, home invasion robbery with a firearm and kidnapping with a firearm, is what courts have called the “functional equivalent” of a life sentence with no chance for parole, he said. Rosario’s scheduled release date is 2280.

Under two landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that means Rosario must receive a new sentence, Colbath said. Rosario, now 23,  is to return to court on July 7 after a new attorney is appointed to represent him.

While the Supreme Court said juveniles are amenable to rehabilitation and therefore must be given a chance at some point to show they can return to society, the justices didn’t provide much guidance to states, like Florida, which outlawed parole years ago, Colbath said. He urged Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater to meet with Rosario’s new attorney and victims to craft a sentence that will pass constitutional muster.

Based on other rulings in similar cases, Rosario will be an old man if and when he is released.

Prosecutors said Rosario was part of a group, that called itself the “Headshot Committee,” that committed a spree of violent home robberies in the northern part of the county in May and June 2010. Their motto, police said, was “thuggin’ to get money.”

He was shot by a Boca Raton police officer after he pulled a gun on her when she attempted to stop a car on Spanish Isles Drive, records show. The driver of the car fled. Rosario identified the driver as Robert Alvarez.

Alvarez, along with Darnell Razz, was ultimately convicted of fatally shooting Circle K clerks Ralston Muller and Michael Dean Bennett in a botched robbery that netted the robbers $71.

Rosario at one point confessed that he murdered the convenience store clerks but refused to give details. As part of a plea deal, he agreed to testify against his former gang mates. When he refused, the 270-year sentence was imposed.