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Two FL Pill Mill Owners Get Prison Time For Illegal Distribution Of Opioids

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

On October 7, 2020, two owners of a medical practice in Tampa, Florida, were sentenced to federal prison time for their roles in the illegal distribution of opioids. U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven sentenced Ernest Gonzalez to 46 months and Rosa Colon to 24 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances for no legitimate medical purpose.

Plot to Illegally Distribute Controlled Substances.

According to court documents, Gonzalez served as the president and owner of Health and Pain Center (HPC), a Tampa pain management clinic. In June 2011, he transferred his executive title and ownership of HPC to Colon. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) obtained a warrant in October 2016, while both were active participants of the administration and management of HPC.

The two owners allegedly hired physicians at HPC, who routinely prescribed controlled substances to patients eeking pain mediciations. Federal authorities always allege that such prescriptions are “outside the scope of professional (medical) practice.” Additionally, the owners are alleged to have participated and facilitated the physicians’ illegal prescribing practices by instructing employees to overlook failed urinalysis screens that help to detect drug abusers.

According to court papers, the owners also obtained MRI studies and other documents that the physicians used to justify the high volume of opioid prescriptions. According to court documents, the owners operated HPC as a cash-only business with little to no medical equipment on-site and staff with no medical training.

The owners pled guilty on September 11, 2018. It is unclear as to why they were not sentenced until October 7, 2020. As part of their sentences, the court entered money judgments of $47,780.96 against Gonzalez and $765,356.76 against Colon. This was in addition to the prison time stated above.

The facts above are typical of those in other state and federal prosecutions against physicians, pharmacists, and clinic owners. If you are a physician who is working for a clinic owned by non-physicians, you need to be very careful that you are working for a legitimate organization. If you are being pressured to write prescriptions for narcotics for patients, you need to be very careful about what you do and why you do it. Often physicians who work for pill mills just bury their heads in the sand and rationalize why they are writing and refilling the same prescriptions for opioids month after month.

For the past ten years, in Florida, the DEA, the Department of Health, the state Attorney General, and multi-jurisdictional task forces have been targeting physicians who write prescriptions for narcotics and pharmacies that fill such prescriptions. There are very few left. The cross-hairs of the regulators and law enforcement are now targeting those who are involved in only very small quantities. Watch out, it could be you next!

View the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Read my prior blog and learn more about pill mills, here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases, and board of pharmacy case, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, and Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) investigations, regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA or a state licensing board, contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

“Tampa Pill Mill Owners Sentenced To Prison For Illegal Distribution Of Opioids.” Tampa Free Press. (October 11, 2020). Web.

Otero, Sebastian. “Tampa pill mill owners sentenced to prison for illegal distribution of opioids.” ABC 7 WWSB. (October 8, 2020). Web.

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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Veterans Urge Federal Court To Reconsider DEA Marijuana Classification

By Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

On October 1, 2020, military veterans urged the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) restrictive marijuana classification. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) said in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief that designating the drug a highly controlled substance has impeded medical research that could save lives.

Marijuana Claimed to Be a “Life-saving Treatment” for Veterans.

IAVA’s brief focused on suicide rates among returning soldiers. The group claimed the current status of marijuana on the drug schedules, listing it as a Schedule I drug, one without any medical use, under federal law inhibits studies to demonstrate its potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the IAVA’s brief, the Schedule I status of marijuana prevents the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and private practitioners from studying the benefits and risks of medical marijuana. This results in keeping life-saving treatment away from veterans suffering from PTSD who reside in states where they are not available.

The brief stated that 40% of veterans experience some form of PTSD that is not helped by treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 2019, IAVA conducted a survey showing that 20% of respondents used marijuana for medicinal purposes. Additionally, 90% of survey respondents support expanding clinical research for medical uses, and 90% would use it if it were an option.

To read IAVA’s amicus brief in full, click here.

Click here to read my recent blog on a proposed medical marijuana research bill.

Schedule I Drug.

Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug on the federal drug schedules. “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Some examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Anyone viewing these drugs objectively would come to the conclusion that marijuana is simply not like the others.

It Is High Time for a Change.

Many veterans have returned from overseas combat severely affected by PTSD and other mental disorders. There is simply not enough available care through the VA to take care of them all. Moreover, many of these suffer from illnesses making them paranoid or suspicious of even seeking such care. Many are homeless. Many are able to function, some normal and some almost normally, by self-medicating with marijuana.

As more and more states authorize medical marijuana, the federal government should acknowledge that there is some benefit to its use and reclassify it. It is simply common sense. Too long has the public labored under the unjust and unsupportable assumption that incorrectly categorizes it as a Schedule I drug. It needs to be moved to Schedule V or Schedule IV. Medical bills would go down, drug bills would go down, and legitimate physicians, even federal physicians, would be allowed to prescribe it.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Regulatory Matters and Other Health Care Licensing Matters.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists, and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting, and/or licensing while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies, and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies. We represent health-related businesses and medical professionals in all types of licensing and regulatory matters, including state and federal administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Reisman, Sam. “Veterans Urge 9th Circ. To Hear Challenge To DEA’s Pot Status.” Law360. (October 7, 2020). Web.

Jeager, Kyle. “Military Veterans Group Asks Federal Court To Hear Marijuana Case Challenging DEA Classification.” Marijuana Moment. (October 8, 2020). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Veterans Urge Federal Court To Reconsider DEA Marijuana Classification

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

On October 1, 2020, military veterans urged the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) restrictive marijuana classification. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) said in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief that designating the drug a highly controlled substance has impeded medical research that could save lives.

Marijuana Claimed to Be a “Life-saving Treatment” for Veterans.

IAVA’s brief focused on suicide rates among returning soldiers. The group claimed the current status of marijuana on the drug schedules, listing it as a Schedule I drug, one without any medical use, under federal law inhibits studies to demonstrate its potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the IAVA’s brief, the Schedule I status of marijuana prevents the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and private practitioners from studying the benefits and risks of medical marijuana. This results in keeping life-saving treatment away from veterans suffering from PTSD who reside in states where they are not available.

The brief stated that 40% of veterans experience some form of PTSD that is not helped by treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 2019, IAVA conducted a survey showing that 20% of respondents used marijuana for medicinal purposes. Additionally, 90% of survey respondents support expanding clinical research for medical uses, and 90% would use it if it were an option.

To read IAVA’s amicus brief in full, click here.

Click here to read my recent blog on a proposed medical marijuana research bill.

Schedule I Drug.

Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug on the federal drug schedules. “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Some examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Anyone viewing these drugs objectively would come to the conclusion that marijuana is simply not like the others.

It Is High Time for a Change.

Many veterans have returned from overseas combat severely affected by PTSD and other mental disorders. There is simply not enough available care through the VA to take care of them all. Moreover, many of these suffer from illnesses making them paranoid or suspicious of even seeking such care. Many are homeless. Many are able to function, some normal and some almost normally, by self-medicating with marijuana.

As more and more states authorize medical marijuana, the federal government should acknowledge that there is some benefit to its use and reclassify it. It is simply common sense. Too long has the public labored under the unjust and unsupportable assumption that incorrectly categorizes it as a Schedule I drug. It needs to be moved to Schedule V or Schedule IV. Medical bills would go down, drug bills would go down, and legitimate physicians, even federal physicians, would be allowed to prescribe it.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Regulatory Matters and Other Health Care Licensing Matters.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists, and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting, and/or licensing while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies, and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies. We represent health-related businesses and medical professionals in all types of licensing and regulatory matters, including state and federal administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Reisman, Sam. “Veterans Urge 9th Circ. To Hear Challenge To DEA’s Pot Status.” Law360. (October 7, 2020). Web.

Jeager, Kyle. “Military Veterans Group Asks Federal Court To Hear Marijuana Case Challenging DEA Classification.” Marijuana Moment. (October 8, 2020). Web.

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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Non-physician Pill Mill Owners in Tampa Sentenced To Prison Time For Illegal Distribution Of Opioids

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

On October 7, 2020, two owners of a medical practice in Tampa, Florida, were sentenced to federal prison time for their roles in the illegal distribution of opioids. U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven sentenced Ernest Gonzalez to 46 months and Rosa Colon to 24 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances for no legitimate medical purpose.

Plot to Illegally Distribute Controlled Substances.

According to court documents, Gonzalez served as the president and owner of Health and Pain Center (HPC), a Tampa pain management clinic. In June 2011, he transferred his executive title and ownership of HPC to Colon. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) obtained a warrant in October 2016, while both were active participants of the administration and management of HPC.

The two owners allegedly hired physicians at HPC, who routinely prescribed controlled substances to patients eeking pain mediciations. Federal authorities always allege that such prescriptions are “outside the scope of professional (medical) practice.” Additionally, the owners are alleged to have participated and facilitated the physicians’ illegal prescribing practices by instructing employees to overlook failed urinalysis screens that help to detect drug abusers.

According to court papers, the owners also obtained MRI studies and other documents that the physicians used to justify the high volume of opioid prescriptions. According to court documents, the owners operated HPC as a cash-only business with little to no medical equipment on-site and staff with no medical training.

The owners pled guilty on September 11, 2018. It is unclear as to why they were not sentenced until October 7, 2020. As part of their sentences, the court entered money judgments of $47,780.96 against Gonzalez and $765,356.76 against Colon. This was in addition to the prison time stated above.

The facts above are typical of those in other state and federal prosecutions against physicians, pharmacists, and clinic owners. If you are a physician who is working for a clinic owned by non-physicians, you need to be very careful that you are working for a legitimate organization. If you are being pressured to write prescriptions for narcotics for patients, you need to be very careful about what you do and why you do it. Often physicians who work for pill mills just bury their heads in the sand and rationalize why they are writing and refilling the same prescriptions for opioids month after month.

For the past ten years, in Florida, the DEA, the Department of Health, the state Attorney General, and multi-jurisdictional task forces have been targeting physicians who write prescriptions for narcotics and pharmacies that fill such prescriptions. There are very few left. The cross-hairs of the regulators and law enforcement are now targeting those who are involved in only very small quantities. Watch out, it could be you next!

View the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Read my prior blog and learn more about pill mills, here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases, and board of pharmacy case, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, and Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) investigations, regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA or a state licensing board, contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

“Tampa Pill Mill Owners Sentenced To Prison For Illegal Distribution Of Opioids.” Tampa Free Press. (October 11, 2020). Web.

Otero, Sebastian. “Tampa pill mill owners sentenced to prison for illegal distribution of opioids.” ABC 7 WWSB. (October 8, 2020). Web.

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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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