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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fourth Suboxone Doctor And Office Manager Indicted For Illegally Selling Prescriptions Of Suboxone And Klonopin

PHILADELPHIA – An indictment was filed today charging a doctor and his office manager in a scheme to sell commonly abused prescription drugs in exchange for cash payments.  Charged in the conspiracy are: Dr. Clarence Verdell, 66, of Voorhees, NJ and Rochelle Williams-Morrow, 37, of Philadelphia, PA.  The indictment includes charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distribution of controlled substances, health care fraud, and money laundering and was announced by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Tuggle, and Special Agent-in-Charge Nick DiGuilio with Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

The indictment alleges that Dr. Verdell formerly worked for Dr. Alan Summers who was also recently indicted for illegally selling prescriptions.  After working for Dr. Summers for approximately six months, Dr. Verdell opened his own clinic in Philadelphia and followed Dr. Summers’s illegal practices of selling prescriptions for cash.  Dr. Verdell attempted to market his clinic to Dr. Summers’s patients by promising them more drugs for less money.  Dr. Verdell also did not require his patients to attend any form of counseling for their substance abuse issues.  Dr. Verdell sold prescriptions for Suboxone and Klonopin in exchange for cash payments. Suboxone is a brand name for a drug used to treat opiate addiction. Dr. Verdell did not conduct medical examinations or mental health examinations as required by law in order to legally prescribe these controlled substances.  Dr. Verdell also assisted his customers in obtaining health insurance benefits for these illegally prescribed controlled substances by providing false information to health insurance companies so that his customers could fill the prescriptions using their health insurance. Many of the customers who frequented this clinic were, in fact, drug dealers or drug addicts who sold the prescribed medications. In addition, Dr. Verdell provided prescription pads to his office manager, Rochelle Williams-Morrow, to use to provide prescriptions to cash paying customers when Dr. Verdell was not present in the office.  During the duration of the conspiracy, Dr. Verdell illegally sold over $1 million worth of controlled substances.

“We have a public health crisis in this county involving prescription drug abuse that is exacerbated by doctors like these defendants,” said Memeger. “Every doctor who abandons his or her ethics to engage in the prescription-for-pay culture is breaking the law. They need to ask themselves whether it is worth the money to put people in danger, to risk the loss of their medical licenses, and to lose their freedom. Our office will continue to investigate and prosecute those individuals whose unscrupulous and illegal conduct contributes to this deadly epidemic.” 

“These doctors capitalized on the addiction epidemic that is typically responsible for numerous deaths across our region,” said Tuggle.  “The DEA will remain vigilant in pursuing investigations in an effort to combat this serious public health crisis.”

“It is a vicious cycle when doctors we trust to treat addiction actually fuel the epidemic for profit,” said DiGiulio. “In this case it is alleged that the defendants were: selling prescriptions for dangerous controlled substances; pretending to follow established standards of care to treat addicts; and then fraudulently causing government health care programs to pay for the unnecessary prescriptions.  We will continue to work with our partners to dismantle dangerous pill mills, to protect government funds, and to keep the public safe.”

If convicted of all charges, each defendant faces a possible prison term, fines, restitution, special assessments, and a term of supervised release.

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, with assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Narcotics Investigations.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Livermore.

Topic(s): 
Prescription Drugs
Updated August 17, 2016