Tampa ‘pill mill’ bust uncovers how millions of pain pills were dispensed
Police say the arrest of a doctor and a Tampa pain clinic’s owners provides a look into how “pill mills” are operating in Florida.
Tampa police announced Thursday the shutting down of the Tampa pain clinic, First Medical Group, after a seven-month investigation. Police say 2.4 million pain pills were dispensed during 9,000 visits to the clinic during the first seven months of 2010.
Police arrested the clinic’s owners, Jorge Marc Gonzalez-Betancourt, 50, and Michele Gonzalez, 34, and Dr. Kimberly Lynn Daffern, 44, on charges of racketeering, trafficking in a controlled substance and conspiracy to traffic in the controlled substance. Police also have warrants for two other workers at the clinic.
Investigation into the clinic’s operations revealed that customers from 30 states and two foreign countries received pain pills from the clinic after paying $300 for a visit. Patients often were not asked questions about their medical history or problem, and many still received pain medication without presenting an MRI, according to police reports.
The results of the investigation come after the emergence of so-called “pill mills” as a hot political topic this year; people have died from overdoses associated with pain pills at a record rate.
Deaths from pain pill abuse led lawmakers and law enforcement to label prescription pill abuse in Florida a scourge that rivals the crack epidemic in the 1980s.
The growing problem led lawmakers to enact tougher restrictions on the dispensing of pills, and several local governments around the state enacted moratoriums on permits for pain clinics. The new laws, however, have been challenged in court.