Tampa Pill Mill Operators Convicted
Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) May 12, 2014 – Three operators of a Tampa pill mill have been convicted on dozens of charges. They now face years in Florida prisons.
Jorge Gonzalez-Betancourt, 53, and Michele Gonzalez, 37, owners of pain clinic First Medical Group, were convicted of charges including racketeering, trafficking in oxycodone and conspiring to traffic in oxycodone. Maureen Altman, 58, the clinic’s manager, was found guilty of charges including racketeering and conspiring to traffic in oxycodone. Many of the charges against the three carry a maximum prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Tampa pill mill attorney Robert Joyce said the conviction sends a clear message to pain clinic doctors and operators.
“The jury saw the harm that these three individuals have brought to Tampa, and they rendered a guilty verdict,” Mr. Joyce said. “The state of Florida has put pain clinics on notice. We are not going to tolerate pill mills in our communities.”
The verdict vindicates years of police and prosecution effort to prove that First Medical Group illegally prescribed and sold millions of doses of narcotic painkillers. Authorities said that each day, as many as 100 patients came to its strip-mall storefront on North Dale Mabry Highway. Many paid for their painkillers in cash, and some came from as far away as Kentucky and Ohio.
Dr. Kimberly Daffern was accused of single-handedly prescribing some 1 million oxycodone pills at the clinic in just three months. She died in 2011, before the trial began.
The trial lasted nearly five months. The prosecutors’ prospects for victory were not always bright. A civil judge gave a poor assessment of prosecutors’ evidence against the clinic. Near the end of the trial, another judge rejected more than half of the charges against the Gonzalezes.
Police raided First Medical in July 2010. But a civil judge soon ordered police to return nearly $250,000 to the Gonzalezes, ruling that police had not had probable cause to seize the money.
In the end, prosecutors, armed with expert analysis of clinic records and the testimony of many former customers of the clinic, were able to form a case strong enough to convince the jury.
Michelle Gonzalez’s attorney said the defendants would appeal.
Joyce and Reyes Law Firm, P.A.
307 S Hyde Park Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
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