Pharmacists, a pharmacy, and several individuals have been named as defendants in various criminal and civil actions filed in federal court in the Southern District of Georgia as part of continuing efforts by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to combat the opioid epidemic.
The actions in Georgia and Florida were coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice, and include 67 individuals charged in connection with various healthcare and controlled substance schemes.
For the actions taken in the Southern District of Georgia, U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine announced the following actions:
- A civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Ga., accuses Darien Pharmacy and Janice Ann Colter, 62, of Darien, Ga., pharmacist-in-charge of Darien Pharmacy, with filling prescriptions for controlled substances that she “knew or should have known were not issued for legitimate medical reasons and by a provider not acting with the regular course of professional practice.” The lawsuit represents the first-ever Controlled Substances Act suit against a pharmacy in the history of the Southern District of Georgia.
- A federal grand jury in Savannah indicted Jenna Savage, 26, of Port Wentworth, Ga.; Norman Lee Burnsed, 27, of Port Wentworth, Ga.; Tucker Chambers, 21, of Ellabell, Ga.; Macaila Brown, 22, of Rincon, Ga.; and Cameron Hilliard, 26, of Savannah, Ga., with conspiracy charges under the Controlled Substances Act relating to the distribution of oxycodone, Adderall, alprazolam, and clonazepam. Savage was further charged with 50 counts of illegally acquiring a controlled substance.
- A criminal information charges David L. Williford, 59, of Rincon, Ga., with illegally acquiring oxycodone. Williford, a pharmacist, is alleged in the information to have acquired the oxycodone from a pharmacy where he was employed.
“Nearly 70,000 people in the United States die each year from drug overdoses, and more than two-thirds of those deaths are due to opioid abuse,” said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “It is beyond outrageous when medical professionals and others fuel this crisis by pouring illegally prescribed drugs into the illicit drug supply pipeline, and our office will continue to take aim at such illegal activity.”
Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Division, said “Pharmaceutical products that are distributed for non-medical reasons can be just as deadly as illicit drugs. The defendants in these cases endangered the community by their actions. These cases have been a success because of the unified efforts of our federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts.”
“Being a healthcare professional in the Medicare program is a privilege, not a right. When physicians and other healthcare providers put their own financial gain above patient well-being and honest billing of government health programs, they violate the basic trust that taxpayers extend to healthcare professionals,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the HHS-OIG Atlanta Regional Office. “These cases put corrupt medical professionals on alert that law enforcement will do everything possible to root out all forms of waste, fraud and abuse in our federal health care programs.”
Criminal indictments and informations contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The claims asserted against defendants in a civil suit are allegations only and are not determinations of liability.
These cases are being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Inspector General, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bradford Patrick, Jonathan Porter, Katelyn Semales, and Marcela C. Mateo.