Operation "Doc-In-A-Box" Nets Pain Clinic Owner And Two Physicians; All Convicted Of Prescription Drug Conspiracy Following 6 Week Trial
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA - Following a six-week trial in United States District Court in Pensacola, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against Dennis M. Caroni, age 37 of Los Angeles, CA, Dr. Gerard M. Dileo, age 60 of Bradenton, FL, and Dr. Joseph G. Pastorek, II, age 61 of Slidell, LA. All three defendants were charged and found guilty of conspiring to unlawfully distribute prescription pain killers. Defendants Caroni and Dileo were also charged and found guilty of conspiring to commit money laundering.
At trial, the government presented evidence that Drs. Gerard M. Dileo and Joseph George Pastorek, II – both employed by Dennis M. Caroni at Global Pain Clinics in Metairie, LA, Covington, LA, and Pensacola – were physicians licensed to practice by the State of Louisiana. Each possessed a Drug Enforcement Administration registration number that authorized them to prescribe controlled substances to patients. The testimony demonstrated that, instead of operating a legitimate medical practice, Dileo and Pastorek engaged in a conspiracy with Caroni, between January 2004 through February 2008, to unlawfully dispense Schedule II and III controlled substances through prescription practices outside the usual course of medical practice, or for other than legitimate medical purposes.
Testimony from 39 witnesses at trial established that Caroni, Dileo, and Pastorek engaged in a conspiracy to unlawfully dispense controlled pain medications in the form of prescriptions for drugs including oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone in exchange for cash fees for office visits. Patients were required to pay $200 to $250 in cash per visit on a bi-weekly schedule, depending on the strength of the medication received. Dileo and Pastorek saw 40-80 patients each day. The evidence at trial established that, during the four-year period alleged in the indictment, over 8.5 million dollars in cash proceeds, received from patients, were deposited in clinic accounts. The money laundering count charged defendants Caroni and Dileo, a part owner of the Metairie clinic, with engaging in financial transactions with the ill-gotten gains from the prescription drug conspiracy with the intent to promote that ongoing conspiracy.
The Pensacola connection to the conspiracy came from Caroni’s establishment of a Global Pain Clinic there, which opened in April 2005. The Global Pain Clinic in Pensacola lasted only a couple of weeks, but was independently continued by Caroni’s clinic manager, Mark Artigues, under the names Chronic Pain Management and Controlled Pain Management, together with three prescribing physicians he employed during the period April 2005 and December 2006. Artigues, along with Drs. Rogelio T. Martinez, Gerardo Klug, and Osler Rivas were previously convicted of Conspiracy to Unlawfully Distribute Controlled Medications and received federal prison sentences in 2008. The prosecution of Caroni, Dileo, and Pastorek followed the return of a federal grand jury indictment in Pensacola, Florida, in September 2010.
The trial of defendants Caroni, Dileo and Pastorek was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Randy Hensel and Special Assistant United States Attorney Alicia Kim before Chief U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers. Sentencing before Chief Judge Rodgers is scheduled for February 16, 2012. Defendant Caroni remains jailed, while defendants Dileo and Pastorek continue on release with both prohibited from writing any prescriptions.
The charges were the result of a multi-year Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Operation named “Doc-in-a-Box” and the cooperative efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Miami Division, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation - Tampa Field Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office and United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of Florida. Pamela C. Marsh, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, had the highest praise for the prosecution team which brought this case to trial. “Overprescribing of painkillers by rogue doctors and pain clinics have had a devastating impact on this state and its citizens. Florida has been the epicenter of a nationwide problem. This case is positive proof that Florida is now working to be part of the solution, and that prosecuting unlawful distributors of pain medication is a priority of both state and federal law enforcement,” said Marsh.