Troubled past for group-home leader
Once charged with impersonating a doctor, David Glatt now is in trouble with disability administrators who say his group homes over-medicated kids.
CAROL MARBIN MILLER
The Miami Herald
David J. Glatt was not a doctor, though he passed himself off as one at South Florida nightclubs.
Posing as a brain surgeon, Glatt carried business cards purportedly from Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, offered free diagnoses and dispensed medications, including mood-altering drugs.
After he was arrested in late 2000, the Weston man agreed he would not take a job "in the medical field where prescription drugs are available" during an 18-month probation in 2001 and 2002.
Two years later, after the probation, Glatt was the owner of a small chain of group homes where disabled children received round-the-clock care -- and drugs, regulators say.
The group homes, called Rainbow Ranch, were shuttered this month after the Agency for Persons with Disabilities accused the operators of letting kids go hungry, supervising them so poorly they routinely attacked each other and medicating several of them so "irresponsibly" they trembled, slept and drooled.
An APD order said child-abuse investigators looked into a claim that one of the children, 12-year-old Denis Maltez, was so over-medicated he had to be hospitalized in January. The complaint was closed with no action against Rainbow Ranches, though it concluded there were "some indicators" the boy had been neglected, records show.
"Conditions in the homes, especially inadequate supervision, resistance to providing information, and irresponsible medication practices by the . . . management present a danger to the health, safety and welfare of the residents," regulators wrote in the June 1 order shuttering Rainbow Ranches.
The decision to shut down the homes was prompted in large part by the death of Denis on May 23. Denis, diagnosed with autism, stopped breathing shortly after a staffer restrained him in a group-home van. Dennis had accompanied other children who were getting haircuts at a Northwest Miami flea market.
Police say Denis' death remains unexplained.
Glatt, 37, did not reply to several messages left both on an answering machine and with a person at his home. Two lawyers involved in his case declined to discuss the group homes. "We just received the case, and it is not possible for us to comment now," said one of the lawyers, Katherine Ezell.
Glatt came to the attention of Delray Beach police in November 2000 when the father of a woman he was dating complained he was impersonating a medical doctor.
Glatt met Therese Felth -- now his wife -- at Club Iguana in Fort Lauderdale in May 2000. Felth was at the bar with her sister, Angelina, when Glatt introduced himself to the two of them as Dr. David Glatt, a neurosurgeon, according to a sworn statement by Delray Beach police drug agent Lorraine Richer.
Shortly after Therese Felth began dating Glatt, he told her sister she looked depressed, Richer wrote. In May 2000, he gave her a pill bottle with about 25 Prozac capsules.
The next month, according to Richer's report, he gave her another 100 to 200 Prozac pills.
Glatt also dispensed drugs to Therese Felth's father, Lars Felth, the statement says. Felth complained he was having trouble battling a drinking problem, and Glatt gave him several Antabuse pills, designed to discourage drinking. The pills made him "violently ill," Richer wrote.
The arrest records do not specify where Glatt got the drugs.
That fall, Lars Felth "began to have doubts" that Glatt was really a doctor, Richer wrote. A private investigator confirmed Glatt had no medical degree from the University of Miami, as he claimed. Glatt continued to insist otherwise.
Felth called police. Glatt was arrested by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Dec. 15, 2000. In July 2001, he pleaded guilty to charges of practicing medicine and dispensing drugs without a license. A judge withheld adjudication and sentenced him to probation.
He had a prior conviction for disturbing the peace and a prior arrest, though no conviction, for felony fraud and theft charges.
Glatt also filed for bankruptcy in 2001, records show. He discharged his debts in March 2002.
But state regulators knew none of that when they granted Rainbow Ranch group-home licenses in Miami-Dade. "We were not aware of his arrest when his wife and mother applied for a license," said Melanie Etters, an APD spokeswoman. "Since he is not the licensee, we would not have done a background check on him."
And such a screening would not have prevented Glatt from operating a group home, Etters added. Glatt had no felony convictions. And the felony charges to which he pleaded guilty -- impersonating a doctor and dispensing drugs without a license -- would not have disqualified him from licensure.
The first application, submitted in October 2004, is signed by David Glatt's mother, Gloria Auston. It lists Therese Glatt -- formerly Therese Felth -- as a housewife and student living in the home of Auston and her husband, Dr. Robert J. Auston. Though Therese Glatt is listed as Auston's daughter-in-law, David Glatt's name does not appear.
A second application, filed in March 2006, and a third application, from October 2006, likewise fail to mention David Glatt.
Nor would state corporate records have given any indication that Glatt was running the homes. Rainbow Ranch's incorporation papers, filed with the state Division of Corporations in June 2004, listed David Glatt as a vice president and treasurer, records show. In July 2004 -- three months before the first APD application -- Glatt resigned and was replaced in the two posts by his mother.
Neither Therese Glatt nor the Austons would have raised any red flags. None of the three have criminal records, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. Robert Auston is a physician; records with the Florida Department of Health show he holds privileges at University Hospital and Medical Center in Tamarac. He has not been disciplined by the state Board of Medicine, records show.
Gloria Auston reported on the application she was a longtime employee with HospiceCare of Southeast Florida.
Glatt's role at the homes was no secret, however.
On June 6, 2006, David and Therese Glatt sued a former employee for defamation. Glatt identified himself in lawsuit documents as part-owner and manager. APD's order suspending the group homes' licenses refers to "owner David Glatt," who is portrayed throughout as the person in charge.
Martha Quesada, Denis Maltez's mother, said David Glatt greeted her when she first visited her son's home, introducing himself as the owner.
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