JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville pharmacist and a former pharmacy owner were sentenced after they both pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges related to a federal pill mill investigation, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia said Friday.
Gilbert Weise Jr., 58, of Fleming Island, was sentenced to 46 months in prison, fined $5,000 and ordered to serve three years of supervised release after the completion of his prison term, federal prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty in January to a charge of conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice, according to prosecutors.
Amy Taylor, 43, of Green Cove Springs, was sentenced to four years of probation and a $5,000 fine, according to prosecutors. She pleaded guilty in January to 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.
“Evidence presented in court revealed that Weise unlawfully dispensed more than 500,000 pain pills, sold 100,000 hydromorphone pills to a drug dealer for $100,000, and frequently filled stacks of pain pill prescriptions presented and paid for by multiple drug dealers,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. “During the conspiracy, Weise Prescription Shop, a small locally owned pharmacy, was the top purchaser of hydrocodone powder in the United States and the eighth largest purchaser of oxycodone powder in the United States. Weise Prescription Shop purchased more than 17 kilograms of opioid powder to meet the high demand for opioids from Coastline.”
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.
The indictment also said Taylor, a former part-owner of Coastal RX Pharmacy in Jacksonville, was brought into the same pill mill operation. Prosecutors said Taylor, along with Weise’s wife and her daughter, purchased Coastal RX Pharmacy and began filling large numbers of Coastline’s illegal prescriptions.
Prosecutors said Weise’s wife and her daughter were also indicted but took plea deals and received federal probation. According to prosecutors, three more people have completed prison sentences after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges.