TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Seven owners and operators of now-defunct pain clinics with offices across Florida -- including one in Jacksonville -- along with a physician they employed, are facing racketeering, conspiracy and manslaughter charges after investigators linked them to eight overdose deaths.
According to the investigation, Dr. Lynn Averill and Real Care Medical Group issued prescriptions of alprazolam, methadone and oxycodone without medical necessity. The seven owners arrested include: Richard Philipoff, 33, of St. Cloud, Calvin Bynum, 24, of Gainesville, Omar Lorden, 50, of Altamonte, Keith Petnel, 29, of Melbourne, Presmil Masson, 44, of Kissimmee, Diana Philipoff, 32, of Melbourne, and Nikhil Bhasin, 28, of Warren, N.J.
Philipoff also set up bank accounts that received deposits and transfers from the Real Care Medical Group pain clinic, and other clinics operated and controlled by Richard Philipoff, Nikhil Bhasin, and Presmil Masson in Jacksonville, Orlando and Boca Raton.
Liberty Medical Group, a clinic on Post Street in Riverside that listed Bhasin as its managing member, closed in May 2010, According to the affidavit, the clinic did not accept insurance payments and and took in $1.1 million in cash.
Bhasin has since moved from Gainesville to Chicago.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, Drug Enforcement Administration DEA Special Agent A.D. Wright, the Broward County Sheriff's Office and Sunrise Police Department announced the charges Wednesday in the third phase of this high profile investigation named Operation Pill Nation.
"We will not allow any doctors or clinic owners to knowingly abuse their positions by selling or delivering highly addictive controlled substances to patients with no medical necessity," said Bondi.
Averill purchased nearly half a million pills of oxycodone from wholesalers. During this same time frame, the national average of approximately 2,000 practitioners was less than 25,000 pills. Dr. Averill's purchase of oxycodone ranked her 25th of the top 100 practitioners in the country and 12th in Florida.
During the course of the investigation, DEA undercover agents posed as patients and never received a physical exam or presented any medical necessity for medication, yet obtained a total of 720 oxycodone 30 mg tablets, 420 oxycodone 15 mg. tablets, three 30ml liquid oxycodone 20mg/ml, 330 alprazolam 2mg tablets and 30 Percocet tablets. According to the investigation, Dr. Averill and the clinic owners were aware of patients dying from overdose deaths and continued to issue prescriptions to whomever brought cash to pay for the drugs.
The arrests follow a five-year investigation led by the DEA in conjunction with the Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Broward Sheriff's Office and the Sunrise Police Department.