By Catherine T. Hollis, J.D., The Health Law Firm
The Orlando Sentinel reports that in April 2013, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) named local undercover detective Billy Powell of the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) in Orlando as its Special Agent of the Year. Powell received this award for his outstanding efforts in pill mill investigations. To read the entire Orlando Sentinel Article on Powell’s award, click here.
Powell was Instrumental in Local Pill Mill Busts.
Powell has been instrumental in investigations into pill mills in the Central Florida area, including the investigations of Orlando doctors. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Powell’s work was influential in the arrest of one local doctor who was allegedly prescribing addictive drugs. MBI's investigation revealed that this doctor was also allegedly hosting nightly parties where he gave women (some of whom were patients) prescription drugs, cocaine and money. In September 2013, the doctor pleaded guilty to several charges, including trafficking in oxycodone, purchasing prostitution and patient brokering. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
FDLE agents say Powell also helped in the investigation of an Orlando doctor who is accused of prescribing more oxycodone during a three-month period in 2010, than all doctors in the state of California combined. He faces racketeering charges and is reportedly working on a plea bargain. We previously blogged about this case. Click here to read that blog.
Crime and Punishment.
A recent Orlando Sentinel article criticizes the state's treatment of these and other pill mill cases, noting that some doctors are given "sweetheart deals" despite their charges. In addition, two doctors arrested in 2010, that the MBI labeled "merchants of death" settled their cases this year. They pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and were placed on probation. Both were able to keep their licenses to practice medicine. According to the Department of Health's (DOH) website, administrative complaints have been filed against these two doctors, but no disciplinary action has yet been taken. Both are listed as authorized controlled substance providers.
Obviously, without knowing all of the details of these cases, it is difficult to say whether the prosecution is being too lenient or whether the facts of the case presented simply did not warrant tougher punishment.
There are several reported cases of doctors sentenced to years in prison and hefty fines for their participation in drug trafficking crimes. Click here to read a previous blog on a Lake Mary, Florida, pain doctor sentenced to 25 years in prison for drug trafficking charges. To read a blog on an Orlando physician ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for prescribing painkillers to undercover agents, click here.
Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients.
The Health Law Firm has represented a number of physicians who have been accused of “overprescribing.” Some of these were criminal investigations by local law enforcement authorities, such as a county sheriff’s office. Some were investigations by the DEA. Some were investigations by the state licensing agency.
To avoid any legal actions altogether, we advise our physician clients to follow a simple list of suggestions in order to protect themselves from drug-seeking patients. Click here to view the list.
Also, it is important to remember criminal charges against a health care professional can have serious consequences. To learn more on the impact a criminal charge can have on a Florida licensed health professional, click here to read a blog previously written by George F. Indest III.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Do you think law enforcement's efforts are being circumvented by plea bargains and lighter sentencing? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Sources:Maxwell, Scott. "Accused Pill-Mill Docs keep getting wrist slaps." Orlando Sentinel. (March 23, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-scott-maxwell-florida-pill-mill-doctors-20130323,0,7973043.column
Pavuk, Amy. "Mladen Antolic: Doctor accused of hosting wild sex, drug parties unsuccessful in attempt to toss evidence." Orlando Sentinel. (February 26, 2011). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-09-20/news/os-sex-parties-drugs-dr-mladen-antolic-20110920_1_midflorida-rehab-mladen-antolic-mbi-agent
Pavuk, Amy. "Secret plea deal may give pill-mill doctor just 6 months in work release." Orlando Sentinel. (August 1, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/os-doctor-riyaz-jummani-plea-20120731,0,3699928.story
Pavuk, Amy. "Undercover pill-mill detective takes FDLE's agent-of-year recognition." Orlando Sentinel. (April 24, 2013). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-04-23/news/os-fdle-agent-of-year-orlando-20130423_1_mladen-antolic-drug-trafficking-pill-mill-cases
About the Author: Catherine T. Hollis is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
Tag Words: Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI), pill mill, pill mill investigation, pill mill case, Florida pill mills, doctor, doctor investigation, physician, physician investigation, prescription drugs, racketeering, overprescribing, controlled substance, controlled substance provider, drug trafficking, oxycodone, plea bargain, doctor plea bargain, physician plea bargain, license to practice, license to practice medicine, administrative complaint, Department of Health (DOH), disciplinary action, disciplinary action on a physician’s license, disciplinary action on a doctor’s license, defense attorney, defense lawyer, Florida attorney, Florida lawyer, The Health Law Firm
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