Miami, FL – Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, and Scott Israel, Sheriff, Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), recently announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging seven defendants for their participation in the illegal dispensing and distribution of oxycodone, among other offenses. The 20-count indictment, filed July 2, 2013, charges defendants Jason Boyd, 43, of Davie, Jason Rodriguez, 36, of Fort Lauderdale, Vijay Chowdary, M.D., 69 of Boca Raton, Harish Chowdary, P.A., 64, of Fort Lauderdale, Amanda Bozer, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, Nestor Merces, Jr., 35, of New York, and Hector Bruno, 35, of Pembroke Pines with various crimes, including conspiracy to distribute, dispense and possess controlled substances, maintaining drug-involved premises, and money laundering. Six of the defendants made their initial appearances in federal court in Fort Lauderdale and Connecticut. Defendant Hector Bruno remains a fugitive.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Schedule II prescription painkillers, like oxycodone, cause more drug overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined. Oxycodone and other Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse and can be crushed and snorted, or dissolved and injected, to get an immediate high. This abuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and sometimes death.
The indictment alleges that from October 2010 to the present, the defendants operated Intracoastal Medical Groups, Inc. (IMG), in Broward County, as a pill mill clinic that offered patients prescriptions for oxycodone and other controlled substances without any legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional medical practice. According to the charges, individuals, including drug addicts and traffickers, seeking to buy large quantities of oxycodone and other controlled substances would travel from hundreds of miles from other states to obtain prescriptions at the defendants’ clinic. Defendant Jason Boyd operated and financed IMG until the Florida Legislature enacted legislation requiring pain management clinics to be owned by licensed physicians. At that time, ownership of IMG was transferred on paper to a physician and in March 2012, to Dr. Chowdary.
To execute the scheme, IMG employed doctors, like defendant Vijay Chowdary, who agreed to prescribe oxycodone and other controlled substances to patients without regard to medical necessity, with only a cursory physical examination of the patient, and in violation of numerous federal and state laws and DEA regulations regarding the storage and distribution of controlled substances. To accomplish the scheme, the defendants created and used a number of false documents. For example, the defendants used phony Florida identification cards to make it appear that all of IMG’s patients were residing in Florida. The defendants also made and used false MRI reports, and discarded urinalysis results that showed that patients were using cocaine and other drugs, advising the patients to return when their urine was clean. The clinic allowed and encouraged the use of “sponsors,” a practice in pill mills where an individual “sponsors” a group of patients in the clinic and pays all of the expenses associated with clinic visit in return for all or a portion of the pills prescribed.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “As this case demonstrates, federal and local law enforcement continue to stand united to tackle the pill mill epidemic that has plagued Broward County and our state. Together, we are making a positive difference, as we continue to bring down these unscrupulous doctors and drug dealers who seek to hide behind a medical license. Pill mill operators be warned: we are not done yet.”
Mark R. Trouville, DEA Special Agent in Charge stated, “This is a text book example of an illegal prescription drug trafficking organization. These rogue doctors and greedy drug dealers tried to make a pill mill look like a legitimate business. The days of profiting from these crimes have come to an end for these seven defendants. The diversion of pharmaceutical drugs remains a priority for the DEA and our law enforcement partners in South Florida. We will stay committed to ridding our communities of those who look to become rich from the diversion of powerful prescription medications.”
“I’m extremely proud of the hard work and dedication our investigators have put into building a solid case against these suspects,” Sheriff Scott Israel said. “This group is made up of drug traffickers passing themselves off as businessmen and medical patients and unscrupulous clinicians pretending to be medical professionals. They did all of this to further their criminal enterprise without concern for the people whose lives they were putting at risk.”
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute, dispense and possess oxycodone; up to 20 years for distributing, dispensing, and aiding and abetting the distribution and dispensing, of oxycodone outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose; and up to 20 years for maintaining a location for the distribution of narcotics. Lastly, defendant Boyd faces up to 20 years on the money laundering charges.
The case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate, and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.
Mr. Ferrer commended the DEA and BSO for their hard work on this case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Vaglienti.
An indictment is only an accusation, and every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A copy of the indictment is available here: US Attorney Indictment (PDF)
Source: US Attorney’s Office