JURY CONVICTS PHYSICIAN OF ILLEGALLY PRESCRIBING PILLS THAT LED TO DEATHS OF FOUR PEOPLE
TUESDAY May 10, 2011
Public Affairs Officer
He was largest physician dispenser of oxycodone in the U.S. from 2003-2005
CINCINNATI – A United States District Court jury convicted Dr. Paul H. Volkman of Chicago of illegally prescribing and dispensing millions of pain pills outside the scope of a legitimate medical practice that resulted in the deaths of four people between 2003 and 2005. He faces at least 20 years in prison.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Detroit Field Division; Keith L. Bennett, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); William Winsley, Executive Director of the Ohio Board of Pharmacy; Richard A. Whitehouse, Executive Director, State Medical Board of Ohio; Portsmouth Police Chief Charles Horner and representatives of 12 other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois who conducted the investigation announced the verdict reached late Monday at the conclusion of a trial before Senior U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith.
Judge Beckwith remanded Volkman to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and ordered him held until sentencing.
The jury convicted Volkman, 64, of 12 counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance including four counts that the illegal distribution resulted in death. Those four counts call for a sentence of at least 20 years and up to life imprisonment. The other counts are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The jury also convicted him of one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and four counts of operating or maintaining a drug premises. Each count is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.
The jury convicted Volkman of one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The crime is punishable by five years in prison consecutive to any other time served.
The government presented 70 witnesses during the trial that began with jury selection on March 1 and lasted more than eight weeks. Government witnesses included pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions from Volkman, law enforcement agents and officers who investigated the deaths, Volkman’s employees, individuals who received pills from Volkman, medical experts and family members of the victims.
Volkman was one of the nation’s largest physician dispensers of oxycodone in 2003 and 2005. Evidence presented during the trial showed that Volkman prescribed and dispensed millions of dosages of various drugs including diazepam, hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, and carisoprodol.
Volkman operated out of three locations in Portsmouth, Ohio and one location in Chillicothe before task force investigators led by DEA Diversion investigators shut him down in 2006. Customers paid between $125 and $200 cash per clinic visit. After a brief visit with him, they received a prescription for pain medicine. The clinics opened their own dispensary in 2003 after local pharmacies refused to honor prescriptions he wrote.
Volkman also directed his customers to the East Main Pharmacy in Columbus which filled more than 5,500 prescriptions for high doses of oxycodone and other drugs between September 2005 and February 2006. Pharmacy owner Harold Eugene Fletcher pleaded guilty in January 2011 to illegal distribution of oxycodone and committing financial and tax crimes. He is awaiting sentencing.
“The jury’s verdict brings a measure of justice and closure to the victims’ families,” Stewart said. “Addressing the complex problem of prescription drug diversion and the crimes’ consequences will require our continued best efforts. I want to commend Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tim Oakley and Adam Wright who prosecuted the case and the law enforcement agencies who worked together during this investigation.”
Two individuals indicted with Volkman pleaded guilty to their roles in the crimes and testified against him. Denise Huffman, 57, who owned Tri-State Health Care and Pain Management in Portsmouth, and South Point Pain Management which operated in Portsmouth and elsewhere, pleaded guilty on November 10, 2010 to operating and maintaining a drug involved premises. Alice Huffman Ball, 36, pleaded guilty on October 25, 2010 to an identical charge. She managed the clinics. Their crimes are each punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. Both are awaiting sentencing.
In a separate proceeding, the judge will be asked to decide if Volkman should forfeit the proceeds of his crimes. In the indictment, the government sought forfeiture of approximately $3.8 million.
In addition to the agencies listed above, Stewart commended the following law enforcement agencies who participated in the investigation:
Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini’s Office
Scioto County Coroner’s Office
Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office
Ross County Sheriff’s Office
Pipeline 23 Drug Task Force
Ohio State Highway Patrol
Kentucky State Police
Greenup County Kentucky Coroner’s Office
Carter County Kentucky Coroner’s Office
Lewis County Kentucky Sheriff’s Office
Kentucky Office of Inspector General, Office of Drug Enforcement
Commonwealth of Kentucky Office of Attorney General
And Drug Enforcement Administration offices in Columbus; Cincinnati; Louisville; London, Kentucky; Cleveland; Detroit, and Chicago.