Owner of Laguna Beach sober-living home pleads not guilty in insurance fraud case
A Laguna Beach man accused of paying body brokers to scout the country for patients for his sober-living home pleaded not guilty Friday to insurance fraud charges related to a scheme that prosecutors say extracted $3.2 million from medical insurance companies.
Steven Lomonaco, 61, also faces a sentencing enhancement allegation of aggravated white-collar crime over $200,000.
Prosecutors allege that Lomonaco, owner of the now-shuttered Casa Bella Recovery International in Laguna Beach, commissioned Mahyar “Christian” Mohases, 37, of Santa Ana, Robert Williams, 41, of Murrieta, Nicholas Reeves, 42, of Aliso Viejo and James Frageau, 29, of Temecula to travel across the country to recruit patients seeking substance abuse treatment. Lomonaco is alleged to have paid the body brokers up to $10,000 for each referred patient who stayed enrolled in treatment for more than 30 days.
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Lomonaco was arrested Thursday and was booked into Orange County Jail with bail set at $250,000, according to jail records. He could face a maximum sentence of eight years and four months behind bars if convicted of all charges.
Mohases, Williams, Reeves and Frageau also have been charged in the case.
“Sober-living homes are valuable resources designed to facilitate recovery and healing for patients battling potentially life-threatening addiction issues,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “Instead of helping these patients, these individuals preyed on extremely susceptible people and exploited their addictions for profit.”
Sclafani writes for Times Community News.