Ousted Hollywood Rehab Leaders Ousted Yet Again From Another Facility (Exclusive)
UPDATED: The troubled couple behind the former One80Center, which shut down last year following a THR probe, has closed their follow-up facility due to lack of funds
Alex Shohet and wife Bernadine Fried's desperate last-minute plea to would-be investors for more money to finance their quixotic comeback plan for a new addiction treatment center in the Hollywood Hills has fallen on deaf ears. The couple’s Wonderland EPA facility, at the former Lookout Mountain Air Force Base in Laurel Canyon (once a top-secret military film lab used to process atomic bomb test footage), had been an attempt to reestablish themselves in the lucrative high-end rehabilitation community where they had once reigned while running One80Center, which closed a year ago in light of a THR investigation into questionable care practices that, among other issues, may have contributed to two deaths on its premises.
"We lost the property on Wonderland," Shohet confirms to The Hollywood Reporter by email. "We did our best to keep it." He added: "This is a sad day for Berni and I. Berni and I will continue to do our best to help provide support and care for people with addictive disorders."
The Wonderland Ave. parcel’s owner, L.A. Superior Court Commissioner John Ladner, had given the couple until Oct. 15 to secure an additional $150,000 to fund escrow on the property, which the couple had been renting as a sober living home (sources say in recent months that they had also been performing chemical detoxification procedures there, for which they had yet to secure a necessary state license), or else lose it to a competing bidder. The funds did not come through and their roughly half-dozen current clients, who had been kept in the dark about the facility’s tenuous financial situation, were scattered by Friday at midnight.
"[Shohet and Fried] waited until the last moment and didn't give appropriate warning to the clients about the potential problems," says one insider. "They were caught so completely by surprise. One of them tried to commit suicide. He is still at UCLA, in the psych ward."
Sources with knowledge of Wonderland EPA, which launched last fall, shortly after the dissolution of One80, describe a troublesome care situation whose contours — lax oversight standards, management breakdowns, promises not kept and fragile addicts who suffered the consequences — mirror those found at its higher-profile predecessor. (None of these individuals would talk on the record for fear of retribution.)
Among the casualties was resident and tech entrepreneur Andrew Stern, husband of Deal or No Deal model Katie Cleary, who left the premises in June to visit a gun range, where he committed suicide. "He was supposed to have 24-hour supervision," says someone with knowledge of the situation. "[Shohet and Fried] just cashed his check."
In recent months, Shohet had frantically been trying to raise cash, even enlisting a notorious new business partner in his search: the one-time film producer Joseph Medawar, recently out of prison after completing a 45-month sentence stemming from his involvement in an investment scheme involving a fake reality TV show about the Department of Homeland Security. (A 2008 episode of CNBC's American Greed series delved into the scam.) "It's the most disturbing thing," says a source close to the facility of Medawar’s involvement. Adds another: "They were like the Bobbsey Twins, bopping around, raising fantasy money." (Medawar could not be reached for comment.)
Despite the gambit, in the end Shohet and Fried's own battered reputation made the fundraising effort untenable. Explains an insider: "The recovery community has their number now."
Nov. 24, 2:00 p.m. Shohet disputes several aspects of this story. He claims that he and his partners were able to come up with $150,000 to fund escrow on the property, but that property owner John Ladner declined to accept it. Shohet also insists that Medawar was not involved in fundraising for the treatment center: “His role at Wonderland EPA is to build awareness and encourage people to work together to solve the wide variety of problems associated with addiction and mental illness.” In addition, Shohet denies that there was any lack of transparency with facility residents and dismisses any connection between the closure and a suicide attempt. Finally, he describes the characterization of resident Andrew Stern’s death as “factually incorrect.”