Family of young man who died addresses judge at sentencing of sober home operator

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Family of young man who died addresses judge at sentencing of sober home operator (WPEC)

A family relived the pain of losing a 21-year-old son and brother.

Kenny Smith died at a Palm Beach County sober home, and his family had powerful and memorable words as a judge sentenced the facility owner on more than 30 counts of patient brokering.

“It’s two-and-a-half years in since we lost our son, it’s treacherous,” mother Gail Smith said.

Kenny Smith, 21, died as he was trying to start a new drug-free life.

“He was a great kid,” Gail Smith said. “He didn’t deserve this. He came down here to get better and somehow he got caught in that web.”

That is, the web of the broken promise of recovery.

Gail Smith's husband, Chris, and daughter Jessica attended the sentencing of Bradley Vercosa.

It was Vercosa who pleaded guilty to the 30-plus charges related to patient brokering.

It was at one of Vercosa’s sober homes where Kenny Smith passed away in 2016.

“It really was a farce,” Chris Smith said. “It really wasn’t meant for recovery. It was meant to collect money from insurance companies.”

The Smiths told the judge how residents at Vercosa’s sober homes routinely used drugs, while staff looked the other way or encouraged it.

Vercosa will serve four years in prison as part of his plea deal.

“Someone with substance abuse disorder, they’re vulnerable, and he shouldn’t have been preyed upon,” Gail Smith said.

The Smiths have channeled their grief into the formation of the Kenny Smith Freedom Foundation. Through the organization, the Smiths opened a treatment residence last year, where the emphasis is on doing recovery the right way.

“We’ve taken our grief and our calling from God, to do what we think God wants us to do,” said Gail Smith, who added the plague of substance abuse can happen to any family.

The Smiths encouraged families to thoroughly investigate treatment facilities.