She went to a nearby Drug Medi-Cal clinic a year ago to get counseling for depression. She encountered a chaotic free-for-all, a clinic filled with people who came only because they wanted money.
At Basen Inc., clients received $5 each time they showed up, she said. Hawkins said counselors often abandoned group therapy sessions after 15 minutes, leaving clients to chat about sexual exploits and getting high. Two former Basen employees also told CIR that the clinic paid clients, although one said that the practice stopped amid worries about getting caught.
A county investigation last year found "extremely serious violations," such as falsified paperwork, but couldn't substantiate allegations that Basen was paying clients.
"The only one that's basically benefiting from all this," Hawkins said, "is ... the person that's running the program."
Bassey Enun-Abara, the counseling center's executive director, said he does not pay clients and disputed Hawkins' description of the clinic. "I can't believe a client would tell you that," he said.
As director of the state Department of Health Care Services, Toby Douglas has primary responsibility for Medi-Cal, including the rehab system. Douglas, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, declined repeated interview requests.
Douglas' boss, Secretary Diana Dooley of California's Health and Human Services Agency, also declined interview requests. Approached by CNN in June outside a public meeting in Sacramento, Dooley headed for a restroom, which was locked.
She then said: "The state of California takes fraud very seriously, and there are many investigations that are underway. The allegations -- all allegations are given full and fair consideration."
Dooley added that her agency's fraud and investigation unit is "one of the best in the country." She ended the brief conversation with, "That's all I have to say."
Asked again whether Douglas would sit down for an interview, as she stepped into an elevator, Dooley put her hand over CNN's camera and called for security. Later, her spokesman offered a sit-down interview with Douglas if CNN discarded the footage of Dooley. CNN and CIR would not agree to that condition.
A month later, Douglas announced his crackdown.
The agency's chief deputy director, Karen Johnson, declined to discuss accusations about specific clinics and acknowledged that the state does not yet "know the expanse of the problem."
Addiction counselor Tamara Askew discovered something wrong soon after she started working at Pride Health Services in Inglewood, southwest of downtown L.A., in 2009.
Askew grabbed a stack of files and began contacting patients to introduce herself. That was harder than she had figured.
Some were in jail, Askew said. Several never showed up. One man she reached out to was dead.
"After that, it was like, 'Are you kidding me?' " Askew said in an interview. "God rest his soul but, I'm like, 'How are you billing (for him)?' "
When it came time to bill Drug Medi-Cal for services rendered, Askew said her boss, Godfrey Nwogene, wanted her to submit paperwork showing that all of those clients, living and dead, had been attending counseling sessions.
The more clients Pride Health Services reported treating, the more money it could charge the government.
"He basically said, 'How do you think you're going to get paid?' " Askew said.
When Askew would not sign off on billing for clients she hadn't seen, her boss unplugged her computer, she said, and told her to leave.
Askew sued Pride, claiming she was fired for refusing to falsify records. Pride Health Services contended in court filings that Askew was laid off because there wasn't enough work. Askew and Pride eventually settled, and a judge ordered the clinic to pay her $15,500.
The clinic kept reaping more than $800,000 annually in government funding, despite persistent allegations of fraud and serious violations documented by auditors.
This year, a whistle-blower told Los Angeles County officials that Nwogene still was billing for "ghost clients." When confronted by county regulators, Nwogene and his staff denied wrongdoing.
Without hard evidence, auditors couldn't substantiate the allegations. They might have had more luck if they had visited Pride on a Wednesday.