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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Ohio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Four doctors charged in southern district of Ohio as part of second Appalachian region prescription opioid takedown

CINCINNATI – The Justice Department announced today the second coordinated law enforcement action of the Appalachian Region Prescription Opioid (ARPO) strike force, including four cases in the Southern District of Ohio.

 

Today’s takedown resulted in charges against 13 individuals total across five Appalachian federal districts for alleged offenses relating to the over prescription of controlled substances through “pill mill” clinics. Of those charged, 12 were charged for their role in unlawfully distributing opioids and other controlled substances and 11 were physicians.  The alleged conduct resulted in the distribution of more than 17 million pills.

 

This action follows the first such takedown in April of this year, which involved charges against 60 defendants, including 53 medical professionals, in 11 federal districts, alleging the illegal distribution of more than 23 million pills.  The charges brought in April have already resulted in 11 guilty pleas in seven federal districts, including guilty pleas by nine medical professionals, including seven physicians.

 

“We said in April that the ARPO strike force was not a one-and-done spectacle, but an enduring commitment to stamp out opioid trafficking by prescription pad. We meant it,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman. “It’s thanks to the partnership between U.S. Attorney’s offices, the Criminal Division and our law enforcement partners that the United States is able to investigate and prosecute not only medical professionals who are allegedly acting as drug dealers, but also the myriad other malefactors who have contributed—and are contributing—to the opioid epidemic.”

 

In the Southern District of Ohio, four medical professionals were charged, including three medical doctors and one doctor of osteopathy, in connection with several alleged “pill mill” controlled substance diversion and/or health care fraud schemes.

 

Troy Balgo, D.O., 53, of Saint Clairsville, the elected county coroner of Belmont County, was charged with one count of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, six counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to commit unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

 

Balgo allegedly caused and/or conspired with others to cause submissions for health care services that he did not perform, and prescribed controlled substances while he was out of the state or country. Balgo is the owner and operator of two medical clinics in St. Clairsville.

 

George Griffin, M.D., 70, of Cincinnati, was charged with 20 counts of distribution of controlled substances for his alleged participation in the unlawful prescription of controlled substances outside of the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. Griffin owns and operates a solo medical practice in Cincinnati.

 

Thomas Romano, M.D., 69, of Wheeling, West Virginia, was charged with 20 counts of diversion of controlled substances for his alleged participation in the unlawful prescription of controlled substances outside of the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. Romano owns and operates a solo cash-only medical practice in Martin’s Ferry, Belmont County.

 

Freeda Flynn, M.D., 66, of Saint Clairsville, was charged with eight counts of distribution of controlled substances, and one count of health care fraud, for her alleged participation in the unlawful prescription of controlled substances outside of the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, and health care fraud for the submission of claims for services which were medically unnecessary and/or performed below medically-accepted standards. Flynn owns and operates a solo practice with focuses on medical and opioid addiction treatment programs in St. Clairsville.

 

The DEA, FBI and HHS-OIG, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (DOD-OIG), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and the Ohio Board of Pharmacy investigated the cases in the Southern District of Ohio. The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher Jason of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

 

An indictment merely contains allegations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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Topic(s): 
Opioids
Prescription Drugs
Health Care Fraud
Component(s): 
Contact: 
jennifer.thornton@usdoj.gov
Updated September 24, 2019