DEA PRESCRIPTION DRUG Arrests and Prosecutions 2011
Extracted from http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/news_releases.htm
Date: January 20, 2012
Contact: David Melenkevitz, PIO
Two More Defendants Sentenced in Florida Pill Mill Operation
Additional Defendants Sentenced in Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Operation Oxy Alley
Jan 20 – Miami – Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division; Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced the sentencing of two additional defendants in connection with charges stemming from Operation Oxy Alley, a coordinated investigation into pill mills in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
Including the two defendants sentenced today, 13 defendants have been sentenced to date on an indictment unsealed on August 23, 2010, which charged 32 defendants. The indictment alleged that defendants Christopher and Jeffrey George, twin brothers, operated, managed and financed four pain management clinics in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. According to the indictment and statements made in court, from 2008 to early 2010, these pill mills distributed approximately 20 million oxycodone pills and made more than $40 million from the illegal sales of controlled substances. Thirteen of the thirty-two defendants were doctors.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra sentenced two defendants, both of whom had previously pled guilty in September and October 2011. Christopher Hutson, 31, of Wellington, pled guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and Christine Chico-Blume, a doctor, 59, of Jupiter, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Christopher Hutson was sentenced to 108 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release. Christine Chico-Blume was sentenced to 60 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release.
At present, 28 of the 32 defendants named in the indictment have pleaded guilty, including clinic owners Christopher and Jeffrey George. The sentencing hearings are scheduled to continue throughout January and February 2012.
The investigation and prosecution were the result of work by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. DEA, FBI, IRS-CID were assisted by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Hollywood Police Department, the Boca Raton Police Department, and the Davie Police Department. Coordination efforts also included cooperation by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office as well as contributions by the Delray Beach Police Department, Jupiter Police Department, West Palm Beach Police Department, Boynton Beach Police Department, Medley Police Department, Homestead Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, and Sunny Isles Police Department.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: January 13, 2012
Contact: Will Taylor
Dentist Sentenced to Prison for Illegal Dispensing of Oxycodone
Three year sentence for diverting controlled substances
MADISON, Wis. – John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Edward McGrath, 36, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb to three years in prison for illegally acquiring and dispensing oxycodone. This prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release. On October 13, 201,1 McGrath pled guilty to these charges.
McGrath was a dentist in the Wisconsin Rapids area. According to the plea agreement, from April 2009 through April 2010, McGrath wrote approximately 207 prescriptions to obtain controlled substances for himself. He diverted the controlled substances in a number of different ways, involving 17 different people in his scheme. Below are some of the ways McGrath diverted controlled substance:
- The person to whom McGrath wrote the prescription gave a portion of the pills obtained to McGrath and was allowed to keep the other half of the pills obtained for his or her own use.
- McGrath performed free dental work in exchange for the patient filling prescriptions and providing the prescribed drugs to McGrath.
- McGrath wrote prescriptions for family members who did not need medication. McGrath would pick up the prescriptions and use the drugs himself.
- McGrath wrote prescriptions for another dentist with a drug problem and the other dentist would write prescriptions for McGrath.
- McGrath wrote prescriptions and paid people cash to fill them.
The charges against McGrath were the result of an investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Wood County Sheriff's Department. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman.
November 03, 2011
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
DEA’s Third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Event Collects 188.5 Tons
NOV 03 - (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Americans participating in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 29 turned in more than 377,086 pounds (188.5 tons) of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at the 5,327 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states and U.S. territories. When the results of the three Take Back Days to date are combined, the DEA and its state, local, and tribal law-enforcement and community partners have removed 995,185 pounds (498.5 tons) of medication from circulation in the past 13 months.
“The amount of prescription drugs turned in by the American public during the past three Take-Back Day events speaks volumes about the need to develop a convenient way to rid homes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “DEA remains hard at work to establish just such a drug disposal process, and will continue to offer take-back opportunities until the proper regulations are in place.
“With the continued support and hard work of our more than 3,945 state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community partners, these three events have dramatically reduced the risk of prescription drug diversion and abuse, and increased awareness of this critical public health issue,” said Leonhart.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for one month. Often, some of these medicines languish in the home and are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high—more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, and inhalants combined, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Studies show that the majority of teens who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from family and friends for free, including from the home medicine cabinet. Many Americans simply do not know how to properly dispose of their unused or expired medicine, often flushing it down the toilet or throwing it away. These methods can pose both safety and environmental hazards.
Four days after DEA’s first Take-Back Day event September 25, 2010, Congress passed legislation amending the Controlled Substances Act to allow the DEA to develop a permanent process for people to safely and conveniently dispose of their prescription drugs. After President Obama signed the Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act of 2010 on October 12, DEA immediately began developing regulations for a more permanent solution.
The DEA’s Take-Back events are a significant piece of the White House’s prescription drug abuse prevention strategy entitled Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis developed and promoted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Purging America’s home medicine cabinets of unwanted or expired medications is one of four action items outlined in the strategy for reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion. The other action items include education of health care providers, patients, parents and youth; establishing prescription drug monitoring programs in all the states; and increased enforcement to address “doctor shopping” and pill mills.
October 28, 2011
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
DEA Administrator, Attorney General Announce Enforcement Efforts Against Illegal Prescription Drug Distributors in Florida
More Than 100 Individuals Arrested to Date in Operations Targeting Pill Mills in Florida
OCT 28 -- WASHINGTON – DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart and Attorney General Eric Holder joined other Federal, state and local law enforcement partners to announce the results of coordinated enforcement actions today against 22 individuals and one pharmacy allegedly involved in the illegal distribution of prescription drugs. This enforcement action, known as Operation Pill Nation II, also included U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill for the Middle District of Florida.
“The days of going to Florida to easily obtain dangerous prescription controlled substances from corrupt medical professionals are coming to an end,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “DEA, in conjunction with its federal, state and local law enforcement partners, has implemented an aggressive and comprehensive strategy in Florida and throughout the United States to stop the diversion of prescription controlled substances that is fueling our country’s epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Operations such as Pill Nation II illustrate the steadfast determination of DEA and its law enforcement partners in ending Florida’s role as the epicenter for rogue pain clinics in the United States.”
“Today’s actions mark important progress in our ongoing fight against one of the nation’s greatest public safety and public health epidemics: prescription drug abuse,” said Attorney General Holder. “Our targeted, aggressive enforcement actions are sending a clear message that in Florida, which has long been an epicenter for the illegal use and distribution of prescription drugs, the days of easily acquiring these drugs from corrupt doctors and pharmacists are numbered.”
“The heightened cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies over the past several months demonstrates the commitment to combat this growing problem,” said U.S. Attorney O’Neill. “Those involved in these types of illegal activities should know that we will continue to investigate, enforce and prosecute those responsible for violating their professional oaths and putting lives in danger.”
Among the 22 people arrested today in Orlando and Tampa, Fla., were five doctors and two pharmacists, who have been charged for their alleged roles in illegally distributing prescription drugs. The court documents unsealed and filed today allege the individuals charged illegally diverted controlled substances.
DEA agents, working alongside state and local law enforcement partners, also executed six search warrants in the Tampa area and served two immediate suspension orders to a doctor and a pharmacy. These orders revoke their authority to dispense or prescribe controlled substances. In addition, approximately $500,000 in U.S. currency and assets were seized today.
Prior to today’s actions, efforts undertaken as part of Operation Pill Nation II have led to the arrest of 49 individuals. In addition, the DEA today announced the addition of a third Tactical Diversion Squad in Florida. This new group will be in Orlando and responsible for investigating prescription drug diversion in Central Florida.
Operation Pill Nation I, which was announced in February 2011 in South Florida, has resulted in the arrest of 47 people to date, including 17 doctors and five clinic owners, and the seizure of more than $18.9 million in cash and assets. In addition, more than 70 doctors, six pharmacy owners and five DEA Registered Controlled Substance Distributors have been stripped of their DEA registrations.
Pill mills are operations in which physicians, pharmacies or clinics prescribe controlled substances, without the proper assessment or due care to legitimate patients.
As part of continuing efforts to protect people – especially children and teens – from the dangers of misused or abused prescription drugs, DEA is sponsoring its third National Prescription Drug Take Back Day tomorrow, Oct. 29, 2011. This event allows people to dispose of expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs at more than 5,000 collection sites throughout the United States, including 17 sites in Tampa and Orlando. During the previous two national Prescription Drug Take Back events, a total of more than 309 tons of prescription drugs were collected nationwide. To learn more about the program or find a Saturday collection site near you, go to: www.dea.gov .
The cases announced today were investigated by the DEA; the Tampa Police Department; the Manatee County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office; the Lakeland, Fla., Police Department; the Pinellas County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office; the New Port Richey, Fla., Police Department; the Naples, Fla., Police Department; the Fort Myers, Fla., Police Department; the Hillsborough County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office; and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Middle District of Florida.
October 21, 2011
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
Chemicals Used in "Bath Salts” Now Under Federal Control and Regulation
DEA Will Study Whether To Permanently Control Three Substances
OCT 21 - WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control three synthetic stimulants (Mephedrone, 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Methylone) used to make products marketed as “bath salts” and “plant food”. Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals, or the products that contain them, illegal in the United States. This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to the public safety. The temporary scheduling action will remain in effect for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled.
The Final Order was published today in the Federal Register to alert the public to this action. These chemicals will be controlled for at least 12 months, with the possibility of a six month extension. They are designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I status is reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.
Over the past several months, there has been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic stimulants sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food”. Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave”, “Purple Wave”, “Vanilla Sky” or “Bliss”, these products are comprised of a class of chemicals perceived as mimics of cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe. These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, and are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. However, they have not been approved by the FDA for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.
In the last six months, DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding products containing one or more of these chemicals. Thirty-seven states have already taken action to control or ban these or other synthetic stimulants. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to allow the DEA Administrator to temporarily schedule an abused, harmful, non-medical substance in order to avoid an imminent hazard to public safety while the formal rule-making procedures described in the CSA are being conducted.
“This action demonstrates our commitment to keeping our streets safe from these and other new and emerging drugs that have decimated families, ruined lives, and caused havoc in communities across the country,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “These chemicals pose a direct and significant threat, regardless of how they are marketed, and we will aggressively pursue those who attempt their manufacture and sale.”
Date: September 29, 2011
Contact: Mike Cannon, PIO
More Than Two Dozen Boeing Employees Arrested in Drug Sting
SEP 29 – PHILADELPHIA – DEA and FBI agents today arrested employees and former employees of Boeing’s Ridley Park plant and one non-employee in a coordinated, long-term, undercover effort aimed at prescription drug abuse at the manufacturing plant, DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Vito Guarino announced. Joining Acting SAC Guarino was United States Attorney Zane David Memeger and FBI Special Agent in Charge George Venizelos.
Indictments against 23 individuals were unsealed today charging each with the illegal distribution of a prescription drug. The drugs being distributed by these defendants include but are not limited to fentanyl (“Actiq”), oxycodone (“Oxycontin”), alprazolam (“Xanax”), and buprenorphine (“Suboxone). In addition to the indictments, 14 other defendants are charged by information with attempted possession of the various drugs being sold by their co-workers. This is a misdemeanor charge which is the reason they are not charged by indictment. The charges allege that each defendant either sold a controlled substance to an FBI cooperator or bought what was believed to be a controlled substance from the cooperator but which was, in fact, a placebo.
“The defendants in this case are accused of diverting controlled substances and selling them to alleged abusers without any medical supervision,” said Guarino. “These sales placed the individual abusers, as well as society at large, at risk. Part of DEA’s mission is to investigate the unlawful diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances and bring those involved to justice, whether it is a doctor, pharmacist, or street distributor.”
The drugs were being distributed on Boeing’s property. Boeing officials brought their suspicions of drug activity to federal law enforcement and have cooperated fully with the long-term investigation.
“This investigation and prosecution focused not only on the sellers, but also on the users because of the critical role that these employees play in manufacturing military aircraft,” said Memeger. “Prescription drug abuse has been on the rise in our community, and this is just one example of how pervasive the problem is.”
“Drug abuse and the illegal sale and purchase of controlled substances are serious criminal problems in the U.S. today, and those who engage in the sale and distribution of pharmaceutical drugs will be targeted,” said Venizelos. “The abuse of prescription narcotic drugs can be as dangerous and devastating as the use of illegal drugs.”
September 13, 2011
Contact: Special Agent Tony Pettigrew
TSA and Law Enforcement Officers in Nevadaand Florida Charged in Prescription Drug Ring Narcotics Trafficking Network Results In 20 Arrests
SEP 13 – STAMFORD, CONN. – DEA Special Agent in Charge Steven W. Derr of the New England Field Division and other law enforcement officials today announced that 20 individuals have been arrested on charges related to their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, a potent and highly-addictive prescription narcotic. Among those arrested are three Transportation Security Administration officers based at airports in Florida and New York, and two law enforcement officers. Sixteen of the 20 defendants were arrested yesterday and earlier today.
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Gregory K. Null, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, and Stamford Police Chief Robert Nivakoff also made the announcement with DEA.
“This investigation not only uncovered the trafficking of diverted pain medications but also exposed the alleged corrupt activities of two law enforcement officers and employees of the Transportation Safety Administration,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Derr. “Prescription pain medication abuse is rampant in New England and this trafficking group allegedly preyed upon the addictions of individuals to line their pockets, while the law enforcement officers are alleged to have sold their badges and abused their authority to further the illegal activities of the organization.”
“The allegations contained in the affidavits that supported the court-authorized criminal complaints and arrest warrants are noteworthy and disturbing for at least two principal reasons,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein. “First, we allege that, in less than one year, this conspiracy was responsible for the illegal transportation and distribution of tens of thousands of highly-addictive prescription narcotic pills from Florida to users in Connecticut. Second, we have identified and arrested three officers of the Transportation Security Administration and two law enforcement officers, who we allege accepted cash payments in exchange for permitting the illegal drugs and the cash proceeds of the illegal drug trafficking to travel safely, undeterred by airport security or law enforcement. In these times, no one needs to be reminded about how dangerous it is when officers who have sworn to uphold the law accept money to ‘look the other way.’ The Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners have zero-tolerance for corrupt law enforcement officers and corrupt federal employees, and anyone who violates his or her oath and breaks the law will soon find him or herself in a federal courtroom, before a federal judge, answering to federal charges.”
“Government employees take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect the people and programs they're entrusted to oversee,” stated DHS OIG Special Agent in Charge Null. “The majority of our employees are honest, dedicated and hard-working individuals. Those employees who choose to violate the law will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”
“We have always appreciated our collaborative effort and the expertise of the United States Attorney’s office,” stated Chief Nivakoff. “It is our mutual initiatives and interest in the safety of all communities that have assisted us greatly in lowering our crime rate. Also, the DEA has been an excellent partner in crime reduction in the City of Stamford and it is apparent from the results of our many cooperative investigations and the long reach of federal law enforcement that the city of Stamford is a safer place.”
Today’s arrests are the culmination of “Operation Blue Coast,” an investigation headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. According to court documents and statements made in court, in April 2011, the Task Force received information that an individual in possession of a large quantity of oxycodone was traveling from Palm Beach, Fla. to Stamford, Conn. to sell thousands of oxycodone pills. On April 8, 2011, the DEA arrested that individual, who was in possession of approximately 6000 oxycodone pills, in a hotel in Stamford. The arrested individual subsequently revealed that, over the course of approximately one year, he had regularly purchased oxycodone from suppliers in Florida, transported the oxycodone to Connecticut by commercial airline or automobile, and sold the pills to various Connecticut-based narcotics traffickers for higher prices than he had paid in Florida. The individual stated that he traveled from Florida to Connecticut several times a week carrying up to 8000 oxycodone pills per trip. He then used drivers to transport him to and from narcotics transactions during which he would sell all of the pills he transported from Florida. After exchanging low-denomination currency for larger notes, he transported the proceeds of his oxycodone sales from Connecticut to Florida, either by having a courier drive the money or by using commercial airline flights.
The arrested individual also explained that, to ensure the success of the operation, he provided cash and gift cards to certain Transportation Security Agency (“TSA”) officers who screened passsengers and luggage at Palm Beach International Airport (“PBI”) in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Westchester County Airport (“HPN”) in White Plains, New York. The individual admitted that, when flying from PBI to HPN, he provided cash or gift cards to the TSA officers who screened him in order to ensure that he would not be prevented from passing through airport security while he carried oxycodone pills on his person or in his carry-on luggage. He also said he made several payments, totaling more than $20,000, to a Westchester County Police officer in order to ensure that he could carry large quantities of cash, the proceeds of his drug trafficking, through airport security at HPN. The individual further explained that he provided cash to a Florida State Trooper, and gave checks to the trooper’s fiance, in exchange for the trooper’s assurance that individuals who transported narcotics or currency on behalf of the individual would not be detained by law enforcement while driving through Central Florida.
The DEA Task Force, in coordination with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Connecticut, New York and Florida, continued to investigate this narcotics distribution operation with the cooperation of the individual who was arrested in April 2011 and another individual who was subsequently arrested, and through the use of consensually recorded conversations, controlled deliveries of oxycodone, physical surveillance, and examination of rental car and airline records. As a result of the investigation, the following 16 individuals were arrested yesterday or earlier today on criminal complaints charging each with conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance:
Christopher Allen, 45, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., a TSA officer based at the Palm Beach International Airport. It is alleged that accepted cash payments in exchange for facilitating the transportation of oxycodone through airport security without detection.
John Best, also known as “JB,” 30, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., a TSA officer based at the Palm Beach International Airport. It is alleged that Best accepted cash payments and a gift card in exchange for facilitating the transportation of oxycodone through airport security without detection.
Brigitte Jones, 48, of The Bronx, N.Y., a TSA officer based at Westchester County Airport. It is alleged that Jones accepted cash payments and a gift card in exchange for facilitating the transportation of oxycodone and narcotics trafficking proceeds through airport security without detection.
Michael Brady, 36, of New York, a police officer employed by the Westchester County Department of Public Safety. It is alleged that Brady accepted cash payments in both Connecticut and New York in exchange for facilitating the transportation of narcotics trafficking proceeds through Westchester County Airport without detection.
Justin Kolves, 28, of Florida, a Trooper employed by the Florida State Highway Patrol. It is alleged that KOLVES accepted cash payments and checks in exchange for ensuring that others could transport oxycodone and drug trafficking proceeds via automobile through a portion of Florida’s highway system without law enforcement interference. It is alleged that Kolves also provided “protection” to the individual who headed the oxycodone trafficking conspiracy during what Kolves believed to be two oxycodone transactions in Connecticut.
Jessica Douglas, 28, of Florida. It is alleged that Douglas, who is Kolves’s fiance, assisted the conspiracy, accepted money on Kolves’ behalf and arranged his transportation to Connecticut where Kolves was to provide protection.
Sami Naber, 51, of Yonkers, N.Y. It is alleged that Naber leased and drove rental vehicles to transport oxycodone from New York to Connecticut, narcotics trafficking proceeds from Connecticut to New York, and also to Florida. It is also alleged that he exchanged small denominations of U.S. currency for larger denominations in order to facilitate the transportation of bulk cash.
Emmanuel Babe, also known as “Manny,” 38, of Mount Kisco, N.Y. It is alleged that babe transported oxycodone from Florida to Connecticut and narcotics trafficking proceeds from Connecticut to Florida.
Wilner Castelin, also known as “Castro,” 42, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It is alleged that Castelin transported oxycodone from Florida to Connecticut and narcotics trafficking proceeds from Connecticut to Florida.
Bruce Yazdzik, also known as “YB,” 28, of Waterbury, Conn.; David Gaudiosi, also known as “Wade,” 26, of Waterbury, and Patrick Serafine, 26, of Waterbury, who are each alleged to have purchased large quantities of oxycodone from members of the conspiracy, which they then distributed to street-level narcotics dealers.
Marivette Alicea, 21 of Waterbury; Christopher Roderick, 31, of Canterbury, Conn.; Steven Stopper, 46, of Naugatuck, Conn., and Kevin Lund, 38, of Naugatuck, who also are alleged to have been involved in the illegal purchase and distribution of oxycodone.
If convicted of the charge of conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, each defendant faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million.
In addition, Bernard Famiglietti, 49, of Watebury, and Sandra Canfield, 30, of Waterbury, were arrested during the course of the investigation and charged with possession with intent to distribute oxycodone, a charge that also carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million.
This matter is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Bridgeport High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which includes personnel from the Connecticut State Police and the Bridgeport, Milford, Norwalk, Stamford and Westport Police Departments; the Drug Enforcement Administration in Florida and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General. In addition, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Greenwich, Monroe, Danbury and Waterbury Police Departments have assisted the investigation.
Date: August 10, 2011
Contact: Mike Cannon, PIO
Physician and Pharmacist Among Those Arrested
in Drug Conspiracy and Health Care Fraud Case
SAC John J. Bryfonski of the Philadelphia Division addressing the media at the press conference.
AUG 10 – PHILADELPHIA - A 498-count indictment was unsealed today charging 53 defendants, including a Montgomery County physician and a Northeast Philadelphia pharmacist, in a multi-million dollar drug conspiracy involving phony prescriptions, phony patients, and an alleged drug trafficking organization. The indictment was announced by United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Zane David Memeger, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent-in-Charge John J. Bryfonski of the Philadelphia Division, Department of Health and Human Services Special Agent-in-Charge Nick DiGiulio, and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge George C. Venizelos. In addition to charges of drug possession and drug distribution, the indictment contains 240 counts of health care fraud. Agents from multiple federal and local agencies arrested defendants this morning.
Included in the indictment are Dr. Norman Werther of Horsham, Pennsylvania, pharmacist Ihsanullah Sean Maaf of Northeast Pharmacy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and alleged drug trafficker William Stukes, also of Philadelphia. According to the indictment, Stukes and his alleged drug trafficking organization recruited large numbers of pseudo patients and then transported them to Dr. Werther s medical office for fake examinations. These patients paid an office visit fee, usually $150, to the office staff and Werther would write prescriptions for those patients to obtain oxycodone-based drugs without there being a medical need for the prescription. The patients were then driven to various pharmacies to have their prescriptions filled, including Northeast Pharmacy where Maaf would fill the prescription. The drugs were then turned over to Stukes or his drivers. Stukes and his organization would allegedly sell the narcotics to numerous drug dealers, who are also named in the indictment, who would also then resell the drugs on the street. It is estimated that between September 2009 and July 2011, the Stukes drug trafficking organization earned more than $5 million through these illegal prescriptions and that the defendants unlawfully acquired and distributed over 200,000 pills containing oxycodone.
“Doctors and pharmacists are trained to help real patients suffering from actual medical conditions, not drug trafficking organizations,” said Memeger. “Ignoring the clear health risks that Oxycodone presents when introduced into the human body, Dr. Werther and pharmacist Maaf elected to use their medical training to engage in fraud by feeding the habits of drug abusers seeking a quick fix. Werther and Maaf are just like the street corner drug dealers they supplied, despite their professional status.”
According to the indictment, pharmacist Ihsanullah Maaf filled Dr. Werther s illegally obtained prescriptions for the drug trafficking organization and laundered the money he received for his services by structuring his cash bank deposits to avoid federal reporting requirements. Maaf is charged with 119 counts of money laundering, 119 counts of structuring of financial transactions, and one count of aggravated structuring of financial transactions. A forfeiture notice seeks at least $920,574 in United States currency, representing the amount of property involved in the money laundering conspiracy.
Defendants Rita Myles, Rashida Lyles, and Tina Weisz worked in Dr. Werther s office and allegedly helped facilitate and verify the prescriptions; defendants Gerald Brinkley and Darrah Robinson allegedly aided Stukes in the running of the drug organization; drivers for the Stukes organization include defendants Herbert Hughes, Carlos Richards, Warren Johnson, Gregory Johnson, Claude Nolan, and Darrell Hendricks; charged as bulk pill buyers are Timothy Peden, Troy Fletcher, Christopher Pizzo, Ato Strong, Sylvester Adams, Jason Romm, James Lyles, and Michael Sanders.
Charged in the indictment as pseudo patients are: Zaniah Beard, Donald Brown, Kim Carter, Andre Dawkins, Evette Gringrow, Leon Harris, Denise Hawkins, Ronnie Jackson, Carla Jenkins, Beatrice Lewis, Michael Littlejohn, Vernell McDaniels, Eric Perry, Mark Reid, Michael Rominiecki, Wayne Rucker, Patricia Simmons, Lawrence Stith, Debra Stukes, Viola Stukes, Steven Thompson, Eric Treadwell, Julia Turner, Geraldine Watkins, Yolanda Williams, Lamont Butcher, Khaliff Headen, Sophia Holder, Latoisha Jones, Dawn Little, and Derek Stukes. These 31 pseudo patients are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and numerous counts of health care fraud.
“This case underscores the magnitude of the prescription drug abuse problem facing the United States today,” said Bryfonski (DEA). “The drugs in this case, when abused, can bring about the same tragic consequences as cocaine and heroin. Even more disturbing, the alleged deception involved suggests that those sworn to treat and administer to the sick can be drawn into a criminal web of drug trafficking for personal gain.”
“The abuse of prescription medications has become a major public health crisis fueled by fraud,” said DiGiulio (HHS-OIG). “All too often prescriptions have no real medical purpose, are fraudulently billed to our health insurance programs, and then sold on the street to drug abusers. Today's arrests, carried out with our law enforcement partners, are intended to serve justice.”
“Doctors and pharmacists who illegally dispense narcotics and other controlled substances are no different than street corner drug dealers, said Venizelos (FBI). These types of heath care fraud schemes not only divert limited resources from patients that really need and deserve care, they also endanger people's lives.”
The crimes of conspiracy, distribution of controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute, and money laundering each carry a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison; health care fraud and aggravated structuring each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; structuring financial transactions carries a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison. Each defendant also faces possible fines, periods of supervised release, and special assessments.
This case was investigated by the Tactical Diversion Squad of the Philadelphia Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Inspector General (HHS/OIG), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department, the North Coventry Police Department and the Upper Moreland Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michelle Rotella and Nancy Beam Winter.
August 02, 2011
Contact: Rich Isaacson
Number: (313) 234-4310
Drug Distribution Investigation Uncovers Massive Health Care Fraud
Twelve Pharmacists, four doctors, an accountant, and a psychologist among those charged in scheme alleging criminal activity at over 20 pharmacies statewide
AUG 02 – An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Detroit was unsealed today, charging 26 individuals for their participation in a large-scale health care fraud and drug distribution scheme, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today. McQuade was joined in her announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert L. Corso of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and LaMont Pugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.
"Confronting the illegal diversion and abuse of controlled pharmaceuticals is a top priority of DEA and our law enforcement partners. Today's arrests and the allegations in the indictment bring to light one of the largest diversion conspiracies ever uncovered in the state of Michigan,” said Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge of DEA's Detroit Field Division. “The allegations against these 26 individuals, particularly of the medical professionals, are significant. These individuals abused their positions of trust and endangered the lives of countless people by illegally distributing more than 6 million doses of opiate painkillers and depressants throughout southeast Michigan and beyond. This indictment makes it clear that the DEA and our partners in law enforcement will continue to investigate and bring to justice those individuals that are responsible for the illegal distribution of prescription medicines."
"Health care fraud steals funds from programs designed to benefit patients, and we all pay for it," U.S. Attorney McQuade said. "Federal and state investigators have teamed up in recent months to detect and prosecute those who commit health care fraud, and we hope that the strength of our efforts will have a deterrent effect."
“Health care fraud and the abuse/diversion of prescription medications are increasing criminal threats to the United States,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Arena. “Dishonest health care providers involved in fraudulent activities frequently exploit Medicare and Medicaid through fraudulent billing schemes which abuse tax payer's dollars. The FBI remains committed to investigating this type of fraud and bringing these individuals to justice.”
The 34‑count indictment alleges that Babubhai "Bob" Patel, 49, a Canton pharmacist, was the beneficial owner and controller of some 26 pharmacies statewide (referred to in the indictment as "the Patel Pharmacies"). Babubhai Patel concealed his ownership and control over many of the Patel Pharmacies through the use of straw owners. The indictment alleges that Babubhai Patel would offer and pay kickbacks, bribes, and other inducements to physicians, in order to induce those physicians to write prescriptions for patients with Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance, and to direct that those prescriptions be presented to one of the Patel Pharmacies for billing.
In exchange for their kickbacks and inducements, the medical professionals would write prescriptions for the patients, and bill the relevant insurers for services supposedly provided to the patients, without regard to the medical necessity of those prescriptions and services. The physicians would direct the patients to fill their prescriptions at one of the Patel Pharmacies. There, according to the indictment, Babubhai Patel and his pharmacists would bill insurers, including Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers, for dispensing the medications, despite the fact that the medications were medically unnecessary and/or never provided. Patients were recruited into the scheme by patient recruiters, who would pay kickbacks and bribes to patients in exchange for the patients' permitting the Patel Pharmacies (and the physicians associated with Patel) to bill their insurance for medications and services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided.
The indictment further alleges a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances at the Patel pharmacies, a purpose of which was to facilitate the submission of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers in accordance with the scheme outlined above. According to the indictment, Babubhai Patel and his associates paid physicians and podiatrists associated with the scheme kickbacks and other inducements in exchange for the medical professionals writing prescriptions for controlled substances for their patients, and directing those patients to fill the prescriptions at a Patel Pharmacy. The controlled substances involved included the Schedule II drug OxyContin, the Schedule III drug Vicodin, the Schedule IV drug Xanax, and the Schedule V drug cough syrup with codeine. According to the indictment, prescriptions for these drugs were written outside the course of legitimate medical practice. Babubhai Patel and his pharmacists would then dispense the controlled drugs to patients without medical necessity. The distribution of controlled substances in this manner was intended, in part, as a kickback to the patients for agreeing to enable their insurance cards to be billed for medications purportedly dispensed at the Patel Pharmacies. The indictment also alleges that Babubhai Patel and his pharmacists dispensed controlled substances outside the scope of legitimate medical practice to patient recruiters, as a kickback for their efforts to recruit patients into the scheme.
According to the indictment, the Patel Pharmacies billed the Medicare program not less than $37.7 million for medications purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries over the course of the scheme (since January 2006), and not less than $20.8 million for medications purportedly provided to Medicaid beneficiaries over the course of the scheme. The indictment further alleges that since January of 2009, the Patel Pharmacies have dispensed not less than 250,000 doses of Oxycontin, not less than 4.6 million doses of Vicodin, not less than 1.5 million doses of Xanax, and not less than 6,100 pint bottles of codeine cough syrup.
In addition to Babubhai Patel, those named in the 34‑count indictment were physician Paul Petre, 43, of Rochester Hills; pharmacist Dineshkmar Patel, 33, of Canton; pharmacist Anish Bhavsar, 35, of Canton; pharmacist Ashwini Sharma, 33, of Novi; pharmacist Pinakeen Patel, 32, of Sterling Heights; pharmacist Kartik Shah, 34, of Canton, pharmacist Viral Thaker, 30, of Findlay, Ohio; pharmacist Hiren Patel, 31, of Novi; pharmacist Miteshkumar Patel, 37, of Troy; pharmacist Lokeh Tayal, 35, of Canton; pharmacist Narendera Cheraku, 33, of Farmington Hills; accountant Chetan Gujarathi, 38, of Canton; business associate Arpitkumar Patel, 26, of Romulus; business associate Sumanray Raval, 54, of Farmington Hills; business associate Harpreet Sachdeva, 38, of Canton; business associate Ramesh patel, 50, of Canton; business associate Rana Naeem, 60, of Rochester Hills; podiatrist Anmy Tran, 40, of Macomb; physician Mark Greenbain, 69, of Farmington Hills; physician Mustak Vaid, 38, of Brownstown Township; psychologist and patient recruiter Sanyani Edwards, 32, of Ferndale; business associate Komal Acharya, 27, of Farmington Hills; patient recruiter Leodis Elliott, 41, of West Bloomfield; and patient recruiter LaVar Carter, 34, of Macomb.
The investigation of this case was handled by the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. Assisting in the investigation were the United States Marshal Service, Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Michigan Attorney General's Office, the State of Michigan Department of Community Health, Gross Ile Police Department, River Rouge Police Department, Livonia Police Department, Livingston County Sheriff's Department, Dearborn Heights Police Department and the Clinton Township Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John K. Neal and Wayne F. Pratt.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial where it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
June 30, 2011
Contact: Chuvalo J. Truesdell
Multiple Defendants Arrested for Operating Prescription Drug "Pill Mill"
Owners, Managers, and Doctors at “Atlanta Medical Group” Accused of Illegal Distribution of Hundreds of Thousands of Oxycodone Pills
JUN 30 – ATLANTA – Jason Cole Votrobek, 27, of Vero Beach Florida; Jesse Violante, 32, of Vero Beach, Florida; Roland Rafael Castellanos, 32, of Cartersville, Georgia; Tara Atkins, 33, of Cartersville, Georgia; and Dr. James Chapman, 61, of Macon, Georgia, were indicted and arrested on federal drug and money laundering charges for their respective roles in operating a so-called “pill mill” pain clinic which served as a front for the illegal distribution of addictive pain killers.
John S. Comer, Acting Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DEA's Atlanta Field Division (AFD) said, “The dispensing of addictive prescription pain medication under the guise of a doctor's care, as occurred in this investigation, is not about the good of the community or an individual's specific health needs; it is about greed and those involved in “pill mill” activity are in fact drug dealers.”
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said of today's arrests, “The abuse of pain medication has become epidemic and now accounts for more deaths in Georgia than all of the traditional illegal drugs combined. As the problems caused by prescription drug abuse becomes a focus for many of the communities in our district, our drug prosecutors also are focusing on the primary sources of these dangerous drugs in our state.”
Atlanta IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Reginael McDaniel said, “The indictment of these individuals puts a spotlight on organizations that illegally distribute drugs as well as the exemplary coordination among law enforcement, which leads to breaking up these organizations. Our goal is to stop criminal enterprises that profit from the illegal trade of dangerous narcotics and take away any financial benefit they receive from their criminal activity.”
Atlanta FBI Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Lamkin, said, “The FBI, through its Northwest Georgia Criminal Enterprise Safe Streets Task Force, in initiating this investigation in conjunction with the GBI and the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, is pleased with its role in the successful outcome of this case. Through joint efforts such as this, the community in which we serve benefits while sending a clear message to those that would exploit the addictions of others."
Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap said, “The Bartow/Cartersville Drug Task Force and all other agencies involved have been working diligently to stop this type of illegal drug activity. We want to send a message that we will not stand for any type of drug dealers in this county. Whether it be prescription drugs, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, or any other illegal drug, we will exhaust all our law enforcement resources to stop you.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the indictment, and information presented in court: In May 2010, working from information from the FBI/ Northwest Georgia Criminal Enterprise Safe Streets Task Force, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Bartow County Sheriff's Office, as well as agents for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), expanded an investigation of “Atlanta Medical Group,” after learning that the clinic, located at 16 Collins Drive, Cartersville, Georgia, was prescribing pain pills outside the bounds of legitimate medical practice.
The investigation revealed that Votrobek, Violante, and Castellanos financed and operated the clinic. Atkins served as the office manager. Chapman served as the primary doctor. The indictment charges that in their respective capacities, they worked to procure and distribute Oxycodone pills to addicts and illegitimate distributors. The clinic's doctor was directed by the owners and managers to see as many patients as possible, in order to generate substantial profits through the sale of pills, which were largely dispensed on site. Chapman allegedly did so, however, without conducting sufficient medical examinations. The indictment alleges that on least one occasion, Atkins facilitated the filling of prescriptions when the doctor was unable to do so himself. In addition, the amounts of pills distributed to patients were excessive, and with unusual dosage patterns.
The indictment charges that the clinic was really a drug distribution operation with an extremely high volume of patients visiting from surrounding states. Many of those visiting had apparent signs of being addicts. The clinic allegedly engaged in unusual practices, including permitting non-medical staff to assist with medical procedures, including taking blood pressure, to maximize the number of patients to be seen. The defendants allegedly made millions of dollars during the clinic's approximately one year of operation. The indictment charges that the defendants established multiple bank accounts, many in third-party names, to conceal the windfall profits.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Bartow County Sheriff's Office, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. This case was initiated by the FBI/ Northwest Georgia Criminal Enterprise Safe Streets Task Force.
Assistant United States Attorneys G. Scott Hulsey and Cassandra Schansman prosecuted the case.
DEA AFD’s Acting SAC John S. Comer encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justhinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.
May 18, 2011
Contact: David Melenkevitz, PIO
Lake Worth Doctor Arrested on Fifty-Five Counts of Illegal
Distribution of Oxycodone at Lake Worth Clinic
MAY 18 – (MIAMI, Fl.) – Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division and Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, announce the indictment of Cesar Deleon, 65, a doctor from Lake Worth, for his participation in the illegal distribution of pain killers. This prosecution is part of Operation Pill Nation, in which DEA and local law enforcement agencies are investigating rogue pain clinics, known as “pill mills,” in South Florida, for illegally distributing oxycodone and other controlled substances.
The indictment charges Cesar Deleon with fifty-five counts of illegally distributing oxycodone. Dr. Deleon was arrested on May 17, 2011. If convicted, Deleon faces up to twenty years’ imprisonment on each count and up to a $1,000,000 fine.
According to the indictment, Deleon operated his clinic, Trinity Medical Center, located in Lake Worth, as a pill mill that offered patients prescriptions for highly addictive oxycodone and other controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional medical practice. The indictment alleges that Deleon prescribed oxycodone without appropriate documentation establishing a valid medical need and in excessive and inappropriate quantities, and failed to conduct complete physical examinations. Deleon also prescribed additional oxycodone and controlled substances to patients who were willing to pay him higher fees. The indictment also alleges that Deleon engaged in sexual activity with female patients at the clinic and, in exchange, would write these patients prescriptions for oxycodone and other substances, and give these patients free office visits and money.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Demand for oxycodone has grown to epidemic proportions in South Florida and other parts of the United States, where drug dealers can sell a 30 milligram pill on the street for $10 to $30 and more. Operation Pill Nation is part of our concerted effort to keep South Florida from drowning in pill mills. We will continue to work with our state and local partners to shut down doctors, clinic owners and operators who deal drugs while hiding behind a medical license.”
“South Florida’s rogue pain clinics exist because of doctors who change their professional priorities from patient care to greed,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville.
DEA is spearheading Operation Pill Nation, an effort to disrupt and dismantle pill mills in South Florida. Additional agencies participating in Operation Pill Nation are the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office, the Broward State Attorney’s Office, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Hollywood Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, Miami-Dade Police Department, Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud, State Fire Marshal and Workers’ Compensation and the Sunrise Police Department.
April 19, 2011
Contact: ONDCP Public Affairs
Obama Administration Releases Action Plan to Address National Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic
New Strategy Strikes Balance between Cracking down on Drug Diversion and Protecting Delivery of Effective Pain Management
APR 19 - Washington, D.C. – Today, Gil Kerlikowske, White House Director of National Drug Control Policy; Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services, Howard Koh, M.D.; Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.; and DEA Administrator, Michele M. Leonhart released the Obama Administration’s comprehensive action plan to address the national prescription drug abuse epidemic and announced new Federal requirements aimed at educating the medical community about proper pain management.
The Administration’s Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis provides a national framework for reducing prescription drug diversion and abuse by supporting the expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, recommending more convenient and environmentally responsible disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home, supporting education for patients and healthcare providers, and reducing the prevalence of pill mills and doctor shopping through enforcement efforts. The plan is the culmination of six months of collaboration across the Federal government, with agencies including the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and others.
In support of the action plan, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced that it is requiring an Opioids Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). The new program will require manufacturers of long-acting and extended-release opioids to provide educational programs to prescribers of these medications, as well as materials prescribers can use when counseling patients about the risks and benefits of opioid use. The Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 gave FDA the authority to require manufacturers to develop and implement a REMS to ensure the benefits of a drug or biological product outweigh its risks.
“Today we are making an unprecedented commitment to combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse,” said Vice President Biden. “The Government, as well as parents, patients, health care providers, and manufacturers all play a role in preventing abuse. This plan will save lives, and it will substantially lessen the burden this epidemic takes on our families, communities, and workforce.”
“ The toll our Nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic has taken in communities nationwide is devastating,” said Director Kerlikowske. “We share a responsibility to protect our communities from the damage done by prescription drug abuse. This plan will build upon our already unprecedented efforts to coordinate a national response to this public health crisis by addressing the threat at the Federal, state, and local level.”
“Abuse of prescription drugs, especially opioids, represents an alarming public health crisis." said Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H. Assistant Secretary for Health. "This Plan, which coordinates a public health approach with a public safety approach, offers hope and health to our Nation.”
“Unintentional drug overdose is a growing epidemic in the US and is now the leading cause of injury death in 17 states,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said. “There are effective and emerging strategies out there to address this problem. Support for this action plan will help us implement those strategies which will go a long way to save lives and reduce the tremendous burden this problem has on our healthcare system and our society.”
“Long-acting and extended-release opioid drugs have benefit when used properly and are a necessary component of pain management for certain patients, but we know that they pose serious risks when used improperly, with serious negative consequences for individuals, families, and communities," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "The prescriber education component of this Opioid REMS balances the need for continued access to these medications with stronger measures to reduce their risks."
“DEA is committed to implementing this important and much needed action plan to reduce the demand for prescription drugs, enforce our nation’s drug laws, and take back unneeded prescription drugs,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “When abused, prescription drugs are just as dangerous and just as addictive as drugs like methamphetamine or heroin. The more we can do to stop the abuse of prescription drugs, the more effective we will be in reducing the death, destruction and despair that accompanies all drug abuse.”
Prescription drug abuse is our Nation’s fastest-growing drug problem. The number of people who have unintentionally overdosed on prescription drugs now exceeds the number who overdosed during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s and the black tar heroin epidemic of the 1970’s combined. In 2007, approximately 28,000 people died from unintentional drug overdoses, driven mostly by prescription drugs. Additionally, a ccording to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of Americans in 2009 aged 12 and older currently abusing pain relievers has increased by 20 percent since 2002. Further, visits by individuals to hospital emergency rooms involving the misuse or abuse of pharmaceutical drugs have doubled over the past five years.
ONDCP is coordinating an unprecedented government-wide public health approach to reduce drug use and its consequences in the United States. This effort includes requesting an increase in funding for drug prevention by $123 million and treatment programs by $99 million dollars for Fiscal Year 2012, to train and engage primary health care to intervene in emerging cases of drug abuse, expand and improve specialty care for addiction—including care for families and veterans, and to better manage drug-related offenders in community corrections.
To read the full Action Plan, click here.
To read the FDA’s Opioids Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), click here.
March 23, 2011
Contact: Rich Isaacson
Number: (313) 234-4310
Michigan Doctor Arrested on Rx Drug Charges and
Health Care Fraud
Dr. Linares’ DEA Registration immediately suspended; Linares alleged to have prescribed controlled substances to 250 patients in one day; prescribed more than 5 million doses of Schedule II and Schedule III narcotics between 2008 and 2010
MAR 23 – (DETROIT, Mich.) – A medical doctor has been charged with unlawfully distributing prescription drug controlled substances, including the Schedule II prescription drug OxyContin (oxycodone), and health care fraud, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Detroit Field Division.
Dr. Oscar Linares, 53, was arrested following the execution of a search warrant at his medical office in Monroe today. The defendant will be making an appearance this afternoon in federal court in Detroit.
The complaint alleges that between April 1, 2008 and March 24, 2010, Linares prescribed more than two million dosage units of Schedule II narcotics and more than one million dosage units of Schedule III narcotics. He then increased his prescribing activity, prescribing an additional 2 million dosage units of Schedule II drugs between June and October of 2010. Linares also fraudulently billed Medicare for more than $5.7 million between 2008 and 2010, submitting patients to medical tests without regard to their symptoms or medical conditions.
Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge of DEA's Detroit Field Division stated, "Addressing the problem of the diversion and abuse of controlled pharmaceuticals is one of the top priorities of DEA and our law enforcement partners. This investigation and the arrest of Dr. Linares should serve as a warning to any medical professional, that if you unethically prescribe medication for personal gain, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Also executed today were a number of seizure warrants for assets of the defendant. Warrants were obtained for four bank accounts in which Linares deposited proceeds of his illegal activities. Warrants were also obtained for seven luxury and high-end vehicles and two watercraft, which were paid for with illegal proceeds.
In addition, the DEA served an Immediate Suspension Order (ISO) on Linares' DEA Certificate of Registration pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act, Title 21. This order was served because the DEA investigation determined that the continued registration of Linares constituted an imminent danger to public health and safety.
According to the Complaint, the defendant prescribed controlled substances for as many as 250 patients per day, paying bonuses to his employees when the number of patients in a single day exceeded 200. Based on undercover patient visits, employee interviews and former patient interviews, the complaint alleges that Linares actually saw very few of the patients, and even when he briefly saw a patient, there was no legitimate examination or doctor-patient relationship. The complaint alleges that when Linares learned that patients were selling their prescriptions in the parking lot, he refused to do anything, stating that he was “not the police.” The complaint alleges that the defendant told his employees that he was building an empire, and that “We are untouchable.”
United States Attorney McQuade commended the combined efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Internal Revenue Service, who were aided by local law enforcement agencies in this investigation.
A conviction of this offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison or a $1 million fine, or both. Any sentence would ultimately be imposed under the United States Sentence Guidelines according to the nature of the offense and the criminal background, if any, of the defendant.
A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.
February 17, 2011
Contact: Robert J. Hanson
Number: (314) 538-4670
Physician Pleads Guilty to $1 Million Drug Trafficking Conspiracy
FEB 17 - KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri announced that on February 16, 2011, an Independence, Mo., physician has pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in a conspiracy to illegally distribute more than $1 million worth of OxyContin and oxycodone.
Bruce Layne Baker, 54, of Independence, pleaded guilty on Jan. 27, 2011, to his role in a conspiracy to distribute OxyContin and oxycodone. Baker, an osteopathic physician, also pleaded guilty to health care fraud.
By pleading guilty, Baker agreed to forfeit to the government $1,166,781, which represents the proceeds obtained as a result of the drug trafficking conspiracy and health care fraud. Baker also agreed to relinquish his Missouri and Kansas medical licenses.
The plea agreement, which was filed under seal, was unsealed and made public on Feb. 14, 2011, following the arrests of several defendants who were indicted in a separate but related case.
Drug Trafficking Conspiracy
Baker admitted that he participated in a conspiracy with Kevin Martin Cummings, 50, and Jonna Womboldt, 39, both of Kansas City, Mo., and others to distribute OxyContin and oxycodone from July 2006 to January 2010. Cummings and Womboldt have also pleaded guilty, in separate but related cases, to their roles in the drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracies and to health care fraud. Cummings also pleaded guilty to theft of government money based on Social Security fraud.
Baker began operating Mobile Physicians and Medical Services, LLC, a business that made house calls to hotels and businesses in 2005. Baker admitted that he provided prescriptions for strippers, bartenders, and bouncers without a medical examination or demonstration of a medical need. He was paid $50 cash for each prescription. In June 2006, Baker met Cummings. Cummings had no medical training, but bought into the Mobile Physicians business.
From July 2006 through January 2010, Baker issued prescriptions to Cummings for OxyContin and oxycodone that were not intended for a medical purpose. Baker also issued Cummings prescriptions for OxyContin and oxycodone in the names of other individuals without examining or treating the individuals, and also to individuals without them knowing the prescriptions were issued in their names.
Cummings filled these prescriptions, or arranged for them to be filled, and then illegally distributed the OxyContin and oxycodone.
Cummings also introduced Baker to other co-conspirators so that they could obtain prescriptions for OxyContin and oxycodone from Baker. These co-conspirators filled the prescriptions and gave some or all of the pills to Cummings, who illegally distributed them.
Womboldt, who met Cummings and Baker in late 2006 or early 2007, began dating Cummings and became involved in Cummings’ narcotics trafficking business shortly thereafter. She would deliver drugs and pick up money for Cummings, which included the distribution of OxyContin and oxycodone.
As compensation for writing the prescriptions, Baker received pills from Cummings or Womboldt and was often paid $100 per prescription.
Over the course of the conspiracy, Baker caused OxyContin and oxycodone prescriptions to be issued for individuals with no legitimate medical need, filled at pharmacies, and paid by health care benefit programs. The estimated sales of the pills totaled $952,520.
Health Care Fraud
Baker admitted that he defrauded health care benefit programs by causing claims for illegal prescriptions to be submitted to and paid by Medicare, Medicaid (aka Missouri HealthNet), TriCare, Blue Cross Blue Shield-Kansas City, and United Healthcare. The pharmacies that filled the illegal prescriptions issued by Baker submitted claims for payment to health care benefit programs and received payment from these health care benefit programs. A total of nearly 83,000 pills were dispensed, for a total payment of more than $214,000 from health care benefit programs.
Kimberly Lee Collet, 31, of Gladstone, Mo., pleaded guilty in a separate but related case to health care fraud and to unlawfully obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. Collet admitted that she submitted claims to her insurance company for illegal prescriptions of OxyContin and oxycodone. Collet obtained the prescriptions from Baker, although she had no legitimate medical need for them. From June 2008 through August 26, Collet caused 50 claims – totaling 2,391 pills – for illegal prescriptions to be submitted by pharmacies to her insurer.
Money Laundering Conspiracy
Cummings maintained bank accounts in the names of his mudjacking business at several banks. Cummings commingled funds from the unlawful distribution of OxyContin and oxycodone with funds derived from his mudjacking business, and other business ventures, to purchase several parcels of real estate, make loans to individuals, and cash checks in order to conceal the source of those funds and to carry out the drug trafficking conspiracy. More than $300,000 from the drug trafficking proceeds was laundered through various banks accounts by Cummings.
Under federal statutes, Baker is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1,250,000. Cummings and Womboldt are each subject to a sentence of up to 50 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1,750,000. Collet is subject to a sentence of up to 14 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
These cases are being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, and the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General.
JAN 27 - BUFFALO, N.Y. -- United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division John P. Gilbride and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that fourteen individuals were charged in criminal complaints in connection with the use of fraudulently issued and forged prescriptions for controlled substances. Among those charged is Dr. Pravin V. Mehta, 73, of Amherst, New York, whose medical practice is located on Main Street in Niagara Falls, New York. Mehta is charged with illegal distribution of controlled substances. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Rogowski, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, Mehta issued prescriptions for controlled substances, primarily Opana and Oxycontin, to patients without a proper medical exam and outside the norms of professional medical treatment. The complaint cites ten occasions between March 2010 and September 2010, when Mehta is accused of engaging in this conduct. In one instance, Mehta prescribed a larger number of dosage units of a controlled substance to a "patient," an individual cooperating with the investigation, knowing that the "patient" intended to share the controlled substances with another individual who was not a Mehta patient.
Also executed at the time of Mehta's arrest was an immediate suspension order (ISO) upon Mehta's DEA registration. This order is effective immediately and prohibits Mehta from possessing, dispensing or prescribing any controlled substances. The order was issued due to Mehta's continued possession of a DEA registration being deemed as inconsistent with the public interest and an imminent danger to public health and safety.
“There are thousands of faces of prescription drug abuse. It could be a mother, a son, a cousin or a friend but the abuse of prescription drugs has dramatically risen to a point of concern not only in law enforcement but in our homes,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John P. Gilbride. “Today, DEA and our state and local law enforcement partners have arrested Dr. Pravin Mehta who hid behind the sanctuary of his medical office in order for him and his coworkers to illegally distribute diverted pain medication in return for profit. Throughout this investigation it was learned that Dr. Mehta’s street name was ‘Doctor Feel Good’ and as such was the fifth highest prescriber of controlled substances in New York State. Today, ‘Doctor Feel Good’ should not be feeling ‘as’ good and will face the consequences of his illegal enterprise.”
“Our Office previously described the growing crisis in our community, and around the country, as a result of the abuse of prescription drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “In order to protect their children, we told parents and grandparents to guard the medicine cabinets. We successfully identified and arrested street level traffickers of the substances. And we committed to following the trail of illegal prescription drug distribution to wherever it leads.”
“Today, we’re here to report that the investigation has taken us literally into a doctor’s office, where prescriptions for these dangerous, highly addictive substances were illegally issued, not just by a licensed medical doctor, but by members of his staff as well,” continued Hochul. “While I must stress that this is not an indictment of the medical profession – where the vast majority of doctors capably discharge their responsibilities and faithfully uphold their oaths – in this instance, all who took part in this operation will face the very stiff consequences of both breaking the law and abusing the public’s trust.”
"Cracking down on unscrupulous individuals deliberately trying to scam the system and profit off of hard-earned taxpayers' dollars must be a top priority for law enforcement in this state. I would like to thank our partners, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York along with the local office of the Drug Enforcement Administration for their continued cooperation in this effort," said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. "Today’s announcement should send a clear message that we will leave no stone unturned in the fight against fraud, waste and abuse in New York State.”
The 13 other individuals named in complaints, including current and former employees of Mehta's medical practice, were charged with obtaining and attempting to obtain controlled substances at local pharmacies by presenting prescriptions they knew were fraudulently obtained or forged. The prescriptions were on forms emanating from Mehta's office.
Also charged: James Respress, 53, of Niagara Falls; Bari McHugh, 37, of Niagara Falls; Teri Long, 27, of Niagara Falls; Amy Gore, 37, of Niagara Falls; Chantel Stypick, 32, of Niagara Falls, a former Mehta employee; Ashley Fose, 27, of Niagara Falls; Darlene Printup, 29, of Lewiston; Dawn Figurelli, 48, of Niagara Falls a current Mehta employee; Shannon Figurelli, 25, of Niagara Falls, a former Mehta employee; Wilbert Henderson, 52, of Niagara Falls; Teresa Gansworth, 25, of Sanborn, a former Mehta employee; Chiaka Gabby, 20, of Niagara Falls; and Robert Bradley, 30, of Niagara Falls.
Respress, Dawn Figurelli, Shannon Figurelli, Bradley, Stypick, Fose, Gabby, McHugh and Henderson were also charged with health care fraud because they utilized Medicaid benefit cards to pay for the fraudulently obtained and forged prescriptions.