OWNER AND TWO EMPLOYEES OF COLUMBUS PAIN CLINICS PLEAD GUILTY TO ILLEGALLY DISTRIBUTING THOUSANDS OF PAIN PILLS
THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2011
Public Affairs Officer
COLUMBUS – The owner and two employees of two pain management clinics in Columbus have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to distributing prescriptions for the equivalent of more than 11,000 dosages of pain medicine without a legitimate medical need for the prescriptions and fraudulently billing a government insurance program for the drugs.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Lamont Pugh, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, Keith L. Bennett, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cincinnati Field Division (FBI), Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Executive Director William T. Winsley of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and Franklin County Sheriff Jim Karnes announced the pleas entered before U.S. District Judge Gregory L. Frost.
Dannette M. Hawthorne, 48, of Columbus, the owner of the two Columbus clinics, Trinity Medical Center, LLC, and Perspective Medical Solutions, Inc. pleaded guilty today to one count each of conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled substances, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, submission of fraudulent claims, and aggravated identity theft.
Charlene Breedlove-Jones, 53, of Columbus and the office manager for both clinics, pleaded guilty Monday, March 28 to one count each of conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled substances, health care false statements, obtaining controlled substances by fraud, attempted distribution of a controlled substance and aggravated identity theft.
In 2010, Hawthorne and Breedlove-Jones illegally distributed 170 grams of oxycodone, or the equivalent of more than 11,000 dosages of 15-milligram pills.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked the court to order that Hawthorne and Breedlove-Jones remain in custody until sentencing.
Deneshia M. Wakefield, 37, of Columbus, who was employed at both clinics, pleaded guilty on March 25 to one count each of health care false statements and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.
According to statements read during their plea hearings, Hawthorne owned the clinics operating on Karl Court in Columbus. The clinics accepted cash payments only and charged approximately $365 for each new patient and $265 for returning patients. In June 2010 Hawthorne and Jones had a physician employed by the clinic sign numerous prescriptions for oxycodone in the hotel room where he was staying, knowing that he had not seen any of the patients for whom the prescriptions were intended.
Between August, 2010 and December, 2010, Trinity and Perspective employed no licensed physicians. Hawthorne and Breedlove-Jones conspired to forge hundreds of physician signatures on prescriptions for pain medications and other controlled substances. Hawthorne and Breedlove-Jones used the names of physicians who had previously worked at Trinity and Perspective without the physicians’ knowledge. Breedlove-Jones and Hawthorne distributed the prescriptions to patients of the clinics, many of whom had addictions to pain medications. Patients subsequently had the prescriptions filled at various pharmacies throughout Ohio and neighboring states.
Hawthorne also had prescriptions for pain medications filled in the names of co-workers who were receiving Medicaid benefits and illegally billed the Medicaid program more than $29,000 for filling the prescriptions.
“Illegal diversion of prescription drugs and Medicaid fraud are two crimes we vigorously prosecute,” Stewart said. “We are committed to working with the Ohio Attorney General’s office and other state, local and federal agencies to attack the prescription diversion problem.”
“I commend our team of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors who helped convict these three drug dealers,” Ohio Attorney General DeWine said. “The Ohio Attorney General’s Office will continue to partner with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement to protect Ohio families from the predators who try to poison them through prescription drug abuse.”
Conspiracy to distribute controlled substances is punishable and attempted distribution of a controlled substance are each punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million. Conspiracy to commit health care fraud is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. Submitting fraudulent claims is punishable by up to five years in prison. Obtaining a controlled substance by fraud is punishable by up to four years in prison. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year sentence which must be served consecutive to the sentences imposed for any of the other crimes.
Judge Frost will determine the sentences and schedule a sentencing hearing following the completion of a pre-sentence investigation by the court.
Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who are investigating the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Affeldt, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Napier with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office, who are prosecuting the case.