Federal Investigation Takes Down New Breed of Pill Mills in Florida
June 27 – (Vero Beach, FL) – Seven doctors and seven clinic owners, which included two firemen were charged on state racketeering violations spanning across Florida. This morning’s operation dubbed “Operation Pill Street Blues” was announced by Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division; Pam Bondi, Attorney General of Florida, Deryl Loar, Sheriff, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office; David Currey, Chief, Vero Beach Police Department, and Dr. John H. Armstrong, Surgeon General, Department of Health. The arrests come following a two year investigation led by the DEA in conjunction with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, Vero Beach Police Department, and the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.
The defendants charged are: Lewis Gabriel Stouffer (32/Coconut Creek), Craig Louis Turturo (32/Boca Raton), Bruce Paul Karlin (63/Delray Beach), Courtland Burr Twyman (38/Deerfield Beach), Jeffrey Clark Thompson (32/Pompano Beach), Dale Andrew Gatlin (59/Jacksonville), Jeffrey J. Reiter (54/Fort Pierce), Dr. Bruce Jay Kammerman (54/Palm City), Dr. Susan Helen Yandle (48/Jacksonville), Dr. Fernando Valle (58/Orlando), Dr. Roger Lee Gordon (65/Plantation), Dr. Joseph Patrick Buffalino (64/Sarasota), Dr. Sanjay Trivedi (49/St. Johns), Dr. Michael Charles Bengala (67/Pompano Beach).
These defendants are facing 144 violations of Florida statutes which include the following offenses: racketeering; conspiracy to commit racketeering; manslaughter; trafficking in a controlled substance; conspiracy to traffic in a controlled substance (28 grams or more); delivery of a controlled substance; illegally prescribing a controlled substance by a practitioner; illegally prescribing a controlled substance (oxycodone hydrochloride) by a practitioner-trafficking amount; workers compensation fraud; and money laundering.
Today’s operation resulted in the arrest of 12 defendants. Bruce Karlin and Courtland Twyman are expected to surrender within 24 hours. In addition, approximately 59 bank accounts were seized totaling approximately $1.1 million, and 13 search warrants have been executed in nine jurisdictions including seven search warrants on clinics at the following locations:
Stuart Pain Management, 1146 21st Street; Vero Beach, Southern Back & Spine, 424 N. Peninsula Drive, Daytona Beach; Jacksonville Back & Spine, 1845 University Blvd., N Jacksonville; Gainesville Health & Wellness, 7731 W Newberry Road, Gainesville; Sarasota Pain Management, 5580 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota; Miami Dade Medical Solutions; 1021 Ives Dairy Road, Miami; and Sunset Pharmacy (AIW) 4224 Cleveland Avenue, Fort Myers.
This investigation began in May 2010 when law enforcement responded to numerous community concerns regarding suspicious activities at the Stuart Pain Management in Vero Beach, Florida. During the investigation, agents traced Stuart Pain Management and eight other clinics, which spanned from Pensacola to Miami, Florida, to an organization headed by Lewis Stouffer. During the investigation, agents also learned that Stouffer and his partner Craig Turturo are active Pompano Beach Firemen.
The investigation further revealed Stouffer used his business sense to research public records relating to past DEA investigations such as Operation Pill Nation and Operation Oxy Alley in order to avoid law enforcement scrutiny. Stouffer used his hero firefighter/paramedic image, to maneuver through the system. Stouffer maintained a rapport with local law enforcement. He educated his co-conspirators on how to successfully report their competition as well as how to report doctor shoppers in order to appear as though they were legitimate pain clinics. All the while, Stouffer was receiving a “tribute” or percentage of the clinic’s income for his services as “the brains of the operation.” While Stouffer’s efforts give the resemblance of legitimacy, his drug enterprise had just one purpose: to make money from illegal drug trafficking and the financing of illegal drug trafficking throughout Florida.
The Stouffer drug trafficking organization is responsible for diversion of millions of narcotic medications, including Oxycodone, Roxicodone, Percocet, Xanax, MS Contin, and Valium throughout Florida. Doctors were recruited by the Stouffer organization to prescribe the medically unnecessary narcotics to doctor shoppers. Many of their “patients” were addicts and abused the prescriptions while others sold the drugs on the street for profit. As a result, Stouffer and his partners have made millions of dollars from the operation of their illegal drug network.
The investigation involved the use of judicial wire intercepts, informants, and under cover visits to clinics that spanned from Pensacola to Miami, Florida. The undercover agents visited each of the seven doctors charged and were prescribed approximately 2,732 oxycodone tablets without medical justification.
Between July 2011 and June 2012, conversations were judicially intercepted between the members of this drug trafficking organization. The calls revealed how Stouffer would instruct his pain clinic managers on how to detect undercover agents, and how they refer to some of their doctors as “serial killers” and referred to their patients as “junkies.” Karlin and Gatlin joked about a doctor, who worked at Stuart Pain Management, being “high on drugs” and being “a prescription addict like our patients.” The calls revealed they had no remorse for their patients’ deaths. For example, on or about March 8, 2012, Karlin called Stouffer to tell him about the death of Forrest Cyphers, a patient of Dr. Gordon at Stuart Pain Management. During the call, Stouffer told him not to worry as “people die every day.” Dr. Gordon and Karlin are being charged with Manslaughter for the death of Forrest Cyphers.
The seven doctors charged are responsible for dispensing over two million Oxycodone 30 milligram tablets within a single year. Each doctor will be served an Immediate Suspension Orders (ISO) by the DEA, which suspends their ability to prescribe, dispense, and administer any controlled substance. The table below is a breakdown of the number of Oxycodone 30 milligram tablets that were prescribed by the doctors in the Stouffer organization.
This investigation is ongoing. Additional arrests of co-conspirators are forthcoming, to include doctors and others.
SAC Trouville commended the Department of Health on their assistance in this investigation relating to Emergency Suspension Orders of medical and business licenses for these rouge doctors and pain clinics.
This investigation was conducted by the DEA, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and Vero Beach Police Department, with assistance from the Attorney General’s Civil and Medicaid Fraud Divisions, the Agency for Health Care Administration, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Daytona Beach Police Department, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Financial Services, Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, Ft. Pierce Police Department, Gainesville Police Department, Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Internal Revenue Service, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Miami-Dade Police Department, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Port St. Lucie Police Department, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Sebastian Police Department, Tampa Police Department, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, and North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
This investigation is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the State Attorney’s Office 19 th Judicial Circuit.
The charging document is merely an accusation and the defendants are assumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.