JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville pharmacist and a former pharmacy owner both pleaded guilty to charges related to a federal pill mill investigation, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.
Gilbert Weise Jr., 58, of Jacksonville, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to dispense controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice, according to federal prosecutors.
Amy Taylor, 42, of Jacksonville, pleaded guilty to an information charging misprision of felony, prosecutors said.
This began at a health care facility in South Georgia before the operation crossed state lines into Florida.
According to a 13-page federal indictment, before Coastline Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in St. Marys shut its door, it held itself as a legitimate medical clinic, but it was really a pill mill that routinely dispensed addictive pain medication for illegitimate purposes.
Between 2014 and 2017, according to federal investigators, customers were paying upward of $300 in cash in exchange for opioids.
Investigators also said Coastline tried to stay under the radar by not accepting payments from insurance companies and required patients to get MRI reports and a prescription profile from a pharmacy to appear legitimate. Coastline’s physician and owner was indicted but was later found unfit to stand trial.
According to the indictment, he wanted to expand the pill mill operation by including Weise, a pharmacist who owned Weise Prescription Shop in Jacksonville.
“Individuals like Weise and his associates who are involved in this ‘pill mill’ activity are nothing more than drug dealers who are licensed to wear white coats and fill prescriptions,” the DEA said in a statement.
In 2015, Weise was featured in a News4JAX I-TEAM report on the DEA’s crackdown on pill mills. In that report, he talked about federal agents scaring doctors and pharmacies by threatening to fine them for handing out too much pain killer medication.
“Really it’s a fear we have that if we go over that percentage that it might cause repercussions for us, punishment from the DEA or fines that we have to pay or a full-scale DEA raid or investigation for our pharmacy,” Weise said at the time.
News4JAX went to Weise Prescription Shop on Friday to see if Weise would talk about why he pleaded guilty, but an employee inside said he was not available.
The indictment also said Taylor, a former part-owner of Coastal RX Pharmacy in Jacksonville, was brought into the same pill mill operation.
Both Weise and Taylor await sentencing. Weise faces up to five years in prison, and Taylor faces three years.
Two other people, including Weise’s wife, were also indicted but took plea deals and received federal probation.