Fort Myers Doctor Convicted of Running Two"Pill Mills" Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

Friday, January 15, 2016

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law



Former Fort Myers, Florida doctor, Jacinta Irene Gillis, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Tuesday, January 12, 2016.  Gillis's sentencing was the result of a conviction for running two illegal "pill mill" operations in the Pinellas and Lee County areas.  Gillis was charged with one count of racketeering, two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to traffic in a controlled substance.



A Lavish Lifestyle Interrupted by "Operation Open Dollar."
 


Gillis saw approximately 50 to 70 patients a day resulting in the issuance of more than 33,000 prescriptions for more than 2.6 million oxycodone pills.  Her illegal ploy was successful in raking in more than $1.3 million in profits over the course of two years, temporarily affording Gillis a rather luxurious life.  

Gillis's lavish lifestyle of car shopping and high-end party hosting was prematurely interrupted with her arrest in April 2011.  The arrest was consequential of "Operation Open Dollar," an initiative invoking an investigation utilizing the collaborative efforts of several different law enforcement agencies and departments.  Gillis's subsequent conviction and sentencing not only put her behind bars for the next 30 years of her life, but also resulted in potentially 30 years of probation following prison and $500,000 in fines.

To read the press release issued by the Florida Attorney General on April 28, 2011, click here


Florida's Growing Epidemic and Its Backlash on Patients.


This is just another example of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) continued efforts to eliminate Florida's rampant pill mill market over the last year.  This pervasive problem has unfortunately seen the state become the "nation's epicenter for the illegal distribution of prescription drugs," according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).  In fact, Attorney General Pam Bondi, saw it to be such a growing problem that she issued a "Pill Mill Initiative" outlining a prescription drug diversion and abuse roadmap for Florida.  To read Attorney General Bondi's initiative, click here

The problem is, while such initiatives have assisted law enforcement in the arrests and prosecutions of those individuals abusing the system, patients suffering true ailments and needing prescriptions for painkillers to ease those ailments are left having to endure the pain.  

To read one of my previous blogs on the patients left hurting due to the pill mill crackdown, click here


Florida "Pill Mills" Discovered Behind Big Names.


Some other big-name pharmaceutical companies involved in the alleged illegal distribution of controlled substances include CVS Health Corp. (CVS) in Sanford, Florida; Cardinal Health Inc. (Cardinal) in Lakeland, Florida; and Walgreen Co. (Walgreens) in Jupiter, Florida.  

CVS entered into a $22 million settlement with state and federal agencies in May 2015, in order to resolve allegations stemming from two of its stores located in central Florida.  The DEA claimed the pharmacies bought unusually large amounts of oxycodone between 2008 and 2011, raising red flags.  The DEA discovered that a significant portion of the painkillers ordered had been used illegitimately and suspended the drug stores' controlled substances licenses as a result.  As a part of the settlement, CVS issued a statement acknowledging its responsibility to only dispense drugs derivative of prescriptions for legitimate medical need, and further recognizing that some locations had failed to comply with such standards.  

To read the press release issued by the DOJ on May 13, 2015, click here

The investigation of CVS actually originated with its main distributor, Cardinal.  Cardinal was barred from shipping prescription drugs from its location in Lakeland, Florida, for two years following a deal with the DEA in May 2012.  The Lakeland distribution facility had sold more than 12.8 million doses of oxycodone to its top pharmaceutical clients including the pair of CVS locations.  

To read the press release issued by the DEA on May 15, 2012, click here

Walgreens reached its own settlement with the DEA in June 2013, paying out $80 million to resolve comparable allegations associated with its Jupiter distribution center and six of its retail pharmacies located within Florida.  The Walgreens settlement qualifies as the largest in DEA history.  U.S. Attorney Wilfredo A. Ferrer stated in part, "Prescription drug abuse is a tremendous problem in Florida [...] we cannot allow pharmacies to circumvent their regulatory record-keeping and dispensing obligations."  

To read the report covered by the Miami News Division for the DEA, click here


Comments?


What do you think about prescription drug abuse in Florida?  Do you feel this is a problem that unfairly and unequivocally impacts pharmacists as well as patients with legitimate medical needs?


Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in DEA Cases.


The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.

If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:


Kennedy, John.  "Florida 'Pill Mill' Operator Gets 30 Years Behind Bars."  Law360.  Portfolio Media Inc.: 12 Jan. 2016.  Web.  13 Jan. 2016.  

"Walgreens Agreed to Pay a Record Settlement of $80 Million for Civil Penalties Under the Controlled Substances Act."  Miami News.  U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.  U.S. Department of Justice: 11 June 2013.  Web.. 14 Jan. 2016.  

U.S. Attorney's Office.  "United States Reaches $22 Million Settlement Agreement With CVS for Unlawful Distribution of Controlled Substances."  Press Release.  U.S. Department of Justice: 13 May 2015.  Web.  14 Jan. 2016. 


About the Author:
George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of 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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.



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1/15/2016

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