A Texas physician and the owner of a Texas pain management clinic that federal prosecutors identified as a pill mill were sentenced on September 20, 2018 to 35 years (420 months) in prison for providing tens of thousands of unlawful prescriptions for millions of doses of opioids and other controlled substances.
The 42-year-old Houston physician and the 49-year-old owner of the Gulfton Community Health Center (“Gulfton”) were indicted on July 6, 2017 and were convicted in March 2018 of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances and three counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances.
According to evidence presented at trial, from March 2015 through July 2017, the defendants ran Gulfton that operated as an illegal pill mill. The trial evidence reportedly showed that the defendant physician unlawfully wrote approximately 18,252 prescriptions for over 2.1 million dosage units of hydrocodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, and approximately 15,649 prescriptions for over 1.3 million dosage units of carisporodal, a Schedule IV controlled substance. The federal prosecutors alleged that the combination of hydrocodone and carisoprodol is a dangerous drug cocktail with no known medical benefit.
The prosecution alleged that the defendant physician regularly issued unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances to more than 60 patients a day, and that “crew leaders” ferried numerous patients to Gulfton so that the defendant physician could provide them with unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances. The defendants reportedly charged approximately $300 for each prescription and required payment in cash. Evidence at trial showed that the defendants split each day’s cash proceeds from the unlawful scheme, which often reached in excess of $15,000.
An Assistant Attorney General stated in announcing the sentencing of the defendants, “Today’s sentences should serve as a stark warning to any medical professional considering exploiting the opioid crisis for profit: you will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will pay a steep price for abusing your prescription power for personal gain. In the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in our country’s history, [the defendants] sold millions of opioids and endangered the safety of an untold number of Americans.”
The DEA Special Agent in Charge stated, “[The defendants] used their position of trust to illegally distribute over 2 million dosage units of hydrocodone into local communities across Houston. It is this kind of illegal distribution of prescription drugs that feed the opioid epidemic and destroys families. The sentencing of [the defendants] is a victory for our communities while at the same time making a nationwide statement that the DEA and DOJ will not tolerate this type of illegal activity.”
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in 12 cities across the country, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion.
If you or a loved one were harmed as a result of the misuse or abuse of medications that were prescribed for you in Texas or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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