Broward County pill mill owner pleads guilty, agrees to turn over nearly $12 million in cars, cash, property
Apr 3, 2012
The following article was published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on April 3, 2012:
Broward County Pill Mill Owner Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Turn Over Nearly $12 million in Cars, Cash and Property
By Paula McMahon
South Florida man whose pill mills illegally put hundreds of thousands of prescription drugs on the streets pleaded guilty on Monday and agreed to turn over to the government close to $12 million worth of cash, property and other valuables paid for with his drug money.
Vincent Colangelo, 43, of Davie, a convicted drug dealer turned pill mill owner, pleaded guilty to drug, money-laundering and income tax crimes in federal court after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.
He agreed to forfeit $6 million worth of vintage and other fancy cars and boats, five properties valued at more than $5 million, $911,951 in cash seized from his seven bank accounts and a safety deposit box, and jewelry worth about $20,000.
Colangelo also agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and, in exchange, will serve a maximum of 20 years in prison though he could serve less time depending on how much useful information he provides, his attorney said.
Cal Deal, a Fort Lauderdale community activist, was delighted to hear that the man who ran a pill mill in his neighborhood will be paying his debt to society.
“It feels absolutely wonderful to have that pill mill shut down, and seeing ‘Pill Mill Vinny’ go to prison for many years is just icing on that very delicious cake! We are all very appreciative of the work that was done by federal agents and local police to restore the tranquillity of our neighborhood and to make this day happen,” Deal said. He had campaigned against one of Colangelo’s clinics in Fort Lauderdale.
Colangelo was eager to talk and spent several minutes before his plea hearing in a federal courtroom in Miami racking his brain for details of his operations and sharing them with his lawyer Alvin Entin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Behnke.
“I was out on my boat all the time because I didn’t want to be there,” Colangelo told the lawyers, explaining how he’d been able to relax after hiring a capable office manager.
The clinics dispensed more than 660,000 units of oxycodone pain pills at several pill mills he ran in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and made at least $22 million in profits between October 2008 and Feb. 23, 2011, when they were raided, federal prosecutors said.
Colangelo bought and used more than 1,600 Internet domains to attract patients, according to the criminal charges against him.
Florida customers had to pay in cash — at least $250 for the first visit and $200 for follow-up visits, while non-state residents were charged more. Staff also required patients to get inferior MRI tests at a local clinic and allowed them to jump the line if they paid a “VIP” fee of $100 to $500. The staff also falsified patients’ urine tests to help justify the pain pill prescriptions, prosecutors said.
Colangelo advertised for doctors on Craigslist and hired only those who agreed to prescribe large amounts of highly addictive pain killers and other medications, prosecutors said.
Colangelo told U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke that he underwent treatment for cocaine abuse and gave up the drug about six years ago. He also said he was treated for alcohol abuse but had been drinking up to the time of his arrest in a federal and state law enforcement sweep in February 2011.
He previously served time in prison for heroin and cocaine offenses and was released in 2004, public records show.
His sentencing is scheduled for June 20.
“Due to investigations like this and new laws, South Florida has witnessed a dramatic decline in oxycodone and how oxycodone is dispensed. Mr. Colangelo’s conviction sends a loud and clear message that DEA continues its effort to end this epidemic in Florida,” said Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent in Charge Mark Trouville.
And the IRS said that even criminals have to pay their income taxes.
“This investigation has shown that there will be serious consequences for those who seek to profit from the illicit trade of prescription drugs. IRS special agents will continue to follow the money to dismantle the financial backbone of illegal organizations and to seize the profits of their illegal activities. IRS agents will also ensure that profits whether legally or illegally derived are properly reported to the IRS,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge José A. Gonzalez.