Sweeping pill-mill indictments in South Florida have charged a total of 32 people, including 13 doctors, with racketeering and other crimes. A 14th physician in Palm Beach County is charged with the murder of a man who died hours after receiving a prescription for pain and anti-anxiety medications.
Fla. doc charged with murder in pill-mill racket
Dr. Gerald Joseph Klein was charged by prosecutors in the Palm Beach County state's attorney's office with first-degree murder in the death of Joseph Stephen Bartolucci. Authorities say that on Feb. 27, 2009, Bartolucci—described as a repeat patient of Klein's—filled a prescription from Klein and died shortly thereafter of a drug overdose. According to his murder indictment (PDF), Klein excessively prescribed hydromorphone and alprazolam to Bartolucci without demonstrating a medical necessity for doing so, leading to Bartolucci's death. Klein also was charged with 13 counts pertaining to drug trafficking and sales and conspiracy to traffic.
Federal, state, county and local authorities say twin brothers Christopher and Jeffrey George, 30, operated a violent criminal racket that distributed as many as 20 million oxycodone pills and raked in $40 million in profits between 2008 and 2010. The brothers set up four pain-management storefronts in Broward and Palm Beach counties and also used the Internet to sell the drugs, according to a Justice Department news release.
The indictment from the U.S. attorney's office in Miami says doctors were hired by the brothers specifically to write pain-medication prescriptions and were paid on a per-capita basis for the number of patients they saw each day. Doctors at one clinic allegedly wrote nearly 500 prescriptions a day, prosecutors say.
Separately but simultaneously, prosecutors in the Palm Beach County state's attorney's office charged Klein with writing prescriptions for more than 300,000 pills himself.
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