Miami Herald: Raided Lake Worth pain clinic handed out 2 million pills in a year

Mar 5, 2010

The Miami Herald published this article on March 5, 2010.


The federal government has called American Pain a “pill mill.” But the Lake Worth pain clinic operated more like a factory, churning through 250 patients a day, paying doctors as much as $44,000 a week, and distributing more than two million painkillers in a single year.

Those details are contained in a forfeiture lawsuit the U.S. attorney’s office filed this week seeking to seize three houses from American Pain’s owner, Christopher George. The suit was filed Wednesday, the same day federal agents and local sheriff’s deputies raided American Pain and two other clinics operated by George’s twin brother, Jeffrey.

American Pain is only one of as many as 200 loosely regulated pain clinics now operating in South Florida, making the region the chief supplier of black-market pills for much of the eastern United States. The explosion of clinics — and the coinciding spike in prescription overdose deaths in the state — has prompted lawmakers and law enforcement to begin cracking down on the industry.

In the suit, prosecutors said George has been under investigation on suspicion of drug trafficking and money laundering for 18 months. Investigators said George tried to conceal his role as American Pain’s owner by listing his mother and girlfriend as “straw owners” on corporate records. But George, 29, of Royal Palm Beach, has not been charged with any crimes.

The suit describes American Pain as a massive — and massively lucrative — enterprise, attracting 250 patients a day from Kentucky, Ohio and South Carolina to buy painkillers. Prosecutors described the patients as mules in a drug-running circuit throughout the South: Out-of-state couriers could buy one pill of the painkiller oxycodone at American Pain for $5, and resell the narcotics in their home states for as much as $80 a pill, the suit says.

Investigators tracked 147 cash deposits totaling more than $14 million that flowed through American Pain’s bank accounts in 2009 alone. A George associate told an undercover agent that George was trying to launder as much as $40 million in assets, the suit says.

Neither George nor his lawyer, James Eisenberg, could be reached for comment Thursday. But Eisenberg previously has said that the George brothers broke no laws while running their businesses.

The pain-clinic business was also generous to the five doctors who worked at American Pain: Dr. Cynthia Cadet of Fort Lauderdale; Dr. Jacob Dreszer of Hollywood; Dr. Roni Dreszer of Hollywood; Dr. Michael Aruta of Boca Raton; and Dr. Beau Boshers of Palm Beach Gardens. Combined, they received $5.1 million in payments last year for providing exams and writing prescriptions at the clinic, prosecutors say.

These five doctors ordered more than 2.1 million oxycodone pills in 2009 through American Pain, prosecutors say. All five physicians are among the top 20 doctors who dispensed the most oxycodone in the United States last year, the suit says, citing DEA data.

Prosecutors said they were reviewing allegations that the doctors were paid based on the number of patients they saw. The doctors were not paid employees of the clinic, but were paid as independent contractors, the suit says.

None of the five doctors has ever been disciplined by the state medical board, records show. No doctor would comment for this story.

“There’s an ongoing investigation. I can’t answer those questions,” Boshers told The Miami Herald on Thursday. According to the government’s lawsuit, he ordered 439,599 oxycodone pills in 2009 through American Pain, which paid him $1.2 million.