Over the last few years, Daniel Cleggett Jr. appeared to be living a charmed life.
The founder of a small Boston-area addiction treatment empire knew he was under scrutiny; the Globe and STAT News published investigations in 2017 and 2019 into his questionable business dealings, and the Massachusetts attorney general’s office announced shortly after that it was examining alleged scams involving addiction treatment.
Still, Cleggett did little to hide his excess, nor did he seem to hit the brakes on new ventures. He opened business after business; took lavish vacations to Yellowstone, Mont., and Aruba; dined on caviar at expensive hotels; and got married at the luxury Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod. His Facebook page, filled with glowing shots of his family by the seashore and in the Virgin Islands, screamed success.
All the while, another agency was stealthily watching Daniel Cleggett. And on Tuesday federal prosecutors unsealed a sprawling indictment that alleges his prosperity wasn’t the result of hard work, but fraud.
Prosecutors allege Cleggett and his deputy, Nicholas Espinosa, used the sober homes and a second, separate business installing home insulation to run an elaborate series of scams on the state, their mortgage lenders, and the family of one of their own sober home clients. In addition, Cleggett, of Kingston, is accused of fraudulently collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars of COVID disaster relief loans from the federal government.
The vacations, the dinners, the wedding were all paid for with stolen money, according to the indictment.
Cleggett and Espinosa, both 37, were arrested Tuesday and appeared shortly afterward in federal court in Boston. Cleggett faces 37 charges, Espinosa 31, including money laundering, wire fraud, and mortgage fraud. Both were released from custody in the afternoon.
Espinosa’s attorney declined to comment. Cleggett’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
Cleggett has long been a lightning rod in the addiction recovery community, dogged by suspicion that he was running a dirty business.
In 2017, the Globe and STAT investigated Cleggett’s alleged role in a practice called “brokering,” in which addicted young people were recruited to travel from Massachusetts to questionable drug rehab centers in South Florida. Brokers are typically paid for sending patients. Two of the men allegedly recruited by Cleggett died of drug overdoses. Cleggett denied involvement.
In response to that story, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office announced it was investigating addiction treatment scams and taking a broader look at sober home operators. In 2021, the AG’s office indicted two people in connection with that investigation, including Michael Hislop, an associate of Cleggett, who was also the focus of a Globe/STAT investigation.
Cleggett appeared to escape charges and continued to run his sober home business. But in 2019, the bones of a missing client were found in the backyard of one of Cleggett’s sober homes. A subsequent Globe story on Cleggett’s sober home business found he was running an unsafe operation with little government oversight.
At that time, Cleggett declined to speak with the Globe, but Espinosa said they were doing their best. “We are really about helping people,” he said.
The allegations outlined in the federal indictment stretch back to 2018, when Cleggett and Espinosa allegedly began to use their sober home and insulation businesses in several money-making schemes.
Prosecutors allege Cleggett and Espinosa worked with one of their sober home clients to dramatically overbill the family trust that was paying for the client’s treatment at one of Cleggett’s facilities, then split the extra money. Between January 2019 and July 2020, they collected more than $170,000 in rent payments from the trust, according to the indictment. Cleggett’s company, A Vision from God LLC, kept $51,750 of that money and gave the rest to the client, who is referred to in the indictment as “co-conspirator 1.”
In another alleged scheme, Cleggett bought three residential properties to use as sober homes, either under his own name or using a straw purchaser, and then, with Espinosa, filed fraudulent documents to get better financial terms.
Cleggett also started several insulation installation businesses that participated in the Mass Save Program, a partnership between the state and utility companies that helps fund energy conservation projects. Cleggett opened one of his companies under his girlfriend’s name to get additional contracts allocated for woman-owned businesses, according to the indictment. He also allegedly had his sober home clients work for him.
Prosecutors allege Cleggett fraudulently billed a vendor for permits he did not actually obtain, and when he was kicked out of the Mass Save program, he and Espinosa got back in by using straw owners to create new companies. The indictment says Cleggett obtained almost $1 million in payments that way.
When the federal government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Cleggett saw opportunity, according to prosecutors. He allegedly used fraudulent documents to apply for and receive three disaster loans for small businesses totaling almost $800,000. The money was supposed to be used for “working capital,” but prosecutors said Cleggett used it for his vacations, hotels, and more.
Even to those long critical of Cleggett and his businesses, Tuesday’s indictments were a shock.
“I screamed, I started crying,” said Maureen Graney, whose son Patrick died in 2016 after Cleggett allegedly sent him to Florida for treatment. Cleggett has denied any involvement in Graney’s travel.
Graney said she had long given up hope Cleggett would ever be held accountable. While the indictment has nothing to do with her son directly, she said she was relieved.
“I just never, ever thought this would happen,” she said. “Patrick will be gone — it will be seven years in September. I guess, behind the scenes, someone was doing their job.”
Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.