Birmingham Area Doctors Charged with Illegally Supplying Controlled Substances
BIRMINGHAM – As part of the Drug Enforcement Agency's Operation Pilluted, federal authorities today arrested a Midfield doctor and charged a Birmingham doctor for illegally supplying controlled substances, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay A. Morris and Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier.
DEA agents this morning arrested ERNEST ALBERT CLAYBON, 72, on charges that he distributed methadone without a legitimate medical purpose. A federal grand jury indicted Claybon April 30 on five counts of distributing methadone "outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose" between November 2014 and January 2015. Claybon was arrested at his family medicine practice in Midfield.
In a separate case, The U.S. Attorney's Office charged PETER ALAN LODEWICK, 73, a physician at Lodewick Diabetes Center on Montclair Road, in a one-count information filed in U.S. District Court. The information charges that Lodewick assisted someone else in acquiring the narcotic painkiller, oxycodone, by "misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, and subterfuge." Lodewick has entered a plea agreement with the government acknowledging the charges against him and stating his intention to plead guilty. Prosecutors filed the plea agreement in District Court today.
A third physician in north Alabama, MUHAMMAD WASIM ALI, 50, who owns a pain clinic in Jasper, was indicted last month on charges of illegally distributing narcotic painkillers for other than legitimate medical purposes.
Charges against the three doctors resulted from DEA's 15-month Operation Pilluted in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, focused on reducing trafficking and abuse of pharmaceuticals.
"Alabama leads the nation in the number of per capita prescriptions for opioid painkillers, which are extremely addictive and often abused," Vance said. "The proper use of these drugs for pain management is important, but their abuse is deadly. Prescription-drug abusers often shift to heroin abuse and this tragic trend contributes to our epidemic overdose death rates. We must ensure that doctors don’t turn into illegal drug dealers," she said.
“Prescription drug abuse is the fasting-growing drug problem in the country," Morris said. "We trust our doctors to heal our bodies, not poison our communities. We will not tolerate or accept illegal prescribing, and we will bring justice to those who condone or participate in this type of practice," he said.
According to Lodewick's plea agreement, he issued about 390 prescriptions for controlled substances between January 2013 and December 2014 to a group of pill-seekers led by the doctor's housekeeper. In May 2013, Lodewick discovered that three individuals in the group were pharmacy-shopping and wrote them letters terminating their physician-patient relationship, but continued to write them opiate prescriptions, according to the plea agreement.
Lodewick voluntarily surrendered his DEA registration, ending his ability to prescribe controlled substances, in January, according to his plea agreement. He is scheduled to be arraigned on his charges Thursday.
Claybon was arraigned today.
The maximum penalty for the aiding and abetting charge against Lodewick is four years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The maximum penalty for each distribution charge against Claybon is 20 years and a $1 million fine.
DEA, ALEA and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, investigated the cases being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Alabama.
An indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.