By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
So the two friends continued going to Broward Rehab for two months. At first, Sohan was instructed to come every day. "Therapy is repetitious," he was told. Yet his back kept hurting.
"I wasn't seeing any development," he says. Eventually, his therapy regimen was cut back to around three days a week.
But Sohan had no clue that any monies he won in a legal settlement would likely be used to cover the medical bills he was racking up at Broward Rehab. He didn't know how PIP worked and didn't realize the doctors and lawyers were eating up his insurance benefits.
"I was really, really confused," Sohan says. Whenever he called the lawyer with questions about his case, only the secretary was available, and the lawyer never called back. (The lawyer himself did not respond to repeated requests from New Times for comment.)
Unable to lift heavy boxes, Sohan initially took two weeks off from work. When his injury lingered and he still couldn't handle heavy loads, his supervisors cut back his work hours. He says his Target bosses were willing to help him qualify for social security disability insurance, but his claim was rejected by the government. When he visited the social security office, he was told they were still trying to get the proper documentation from Broward Rehab. "They always said the doctor wasn't there to sign it," he says.
Yet Sohan kept returning to the clinic. "I had no idea where else to go," he says. "I wasn't getting no advice from anybody. They seemed like at least they were doing something. And they kept telling me to come back."
Robert Cash Lewin, owner of 411-PAIN, arrives for an interview at his lawyer's office in downtown Fort Lauderdale wearing a dark suit jacket and a collared shirt. Flanked by his graying attorney and his polished PR consultant, he apologizes for being nervous. Indeed, he seems swallowed up by the mammoth conference table and his leather chair.
At 44, he is short and squat, with spiky dark hair, pale skin, and a goatee. He could be a young Danny DeVito playing the role of businessman. His voice takes on a car salesman's pitch as he delivers lines such as, "We have achieved our success with a focus on helping the injured."
Lewin and his twin brother, Harley, grew up in Davie as the youngest members of a family with nine kids. Their father started the Small Fry daycare chain, which grew to 30 locations in South Florida. Lewin was blessed with the family's entrepreneurial spirit and credits his dad with giving him the idea for expanding his business.
When they were kids, one of Lewin's older brothers was friends with a boy named Guy Shapiro. Because Shapiro was six years older than him, Lewin didn't know him well. He had no idea the teenager would later become his business partner and good friend. And he was ignorant of a dark chapter in Shapiro's life.
In 1977, when he was around 16, Shapiro allegedly raped his 5-year-old niece while babysitting her in North Miami Beach. He assaulted the child "possibly 10 or more times" over the course of a year, according to an affidavit in the case. A dozen years later, the victim and her mother confronted Shapiro about what happened. He eventually pleaded no contest to four counts of lewd and lascivious assault on a child and served four years of probation. By then, he had become a chiropractor. He was barred from treating children in his practice during that time.
But Lewin says he knew nothing about Shapiro's crimes. The two didn't cross paths much until they both attended Life University in Atlanta for chiropractic training. They grew closer after they returned to Florida and set up shop separately as chiropractors. In the early '90s, they began hatching plans to launch a chain of clinics together.
They opened Broward Rehab in 1995. In official documents, Lewin was listed as president of the company, and Shapiro's mother was president of the board of directors.
The next year, state records show, Lewin opened Dade Rehabilitation in Miami and the following year a clinic in Hollywood. By 2002, they also had a clinic in Aventura, bringing the total to four. The medical practice was accompanied by a marketing arm, which Lewin started early on. In 1997, he got a license for a toll-free number and began advertising "accident recovery information services" provided by 800-411-PAIN.
Lewin bristles at any suggestion of impropriety in his company. 411-PAIN's goal is to assist people in need, he says. The clinics treat slip-and-fall victims and people injured on the job as well as car accident victims. They also do general chiropractic work and have medical doctors on-site, he says.
The company was a thriving but rather small operation for nearly a decade. It didn't take off until after Shapiro died.
Just before 4 a.m. on April 1, 2007, Shapiro drove to an Opa-locka gas station, desperate to buy crack . Three Miami teenagers sold him some fake rock, then stuck a shotgun in the window of his Cadillac Escalade, according to a police report. His attackers demanded more cash. Shapiro, 45, refused to open his wallet. One of the teenagers pulled the trigger and left a bullet in Shapiro's shoulder.