by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON – Saying drug pushers “hiding behind doctor’s smocks are just as dangerous as drug dealers from Detroit,” Southern District U.S, Attorney Mike Stuart today announced a 69-count indictment. Speaking in Charleston’s federal courthouse, Stuart noted that all defendants are presumed innocent until they are convicted of any crime.
The indictment charges a total of 12 individuals with furthering the operation of “pill mills” named HOPE Clinic in Charleston, Beckley, Beaver and Wytheville, Virginia. It says those charged conspired to distribute oxycodone and other Schedule II substances “not for legitimate medical purposes and outside the usual course of professional practice from November 2010 to June 2015.”
Those charged in the indictment are James H. Blume, D.O., Mark T. Radcliffe, Joshua Radcliffe, Michael T. Moran, M.D., Sanjay Mehta, D.O., Brian Gullett, D.O., Vernon Stanley, M.D., Mark Clarkson, D.O., William Easley, D.O., Paul W. Burke, M.D., Roswell Tempest Lowry, M.D., and Teresa Emerson, LPN.
Stuart recognized several units of federal, state, local and Kentucky state police in assisting in the investigation.
According to the indictment, Dr. Blume, the HOPE Clinic owner, entered into a Physician Practice Management Agreement with Mark Radcliffe, owner of Patients, Physicians and Pharmacists Fighting Diversion, Inc. (PPPFD). Radcliffe was to function as practice manager of the clinic.
The indictment says Blume and Radcliffe operated the clinic as a cash-based business that prescribed oxycodone and other Schedule II controlled substances to patients. The clinic, the indictment says, refused to accept insurance, charging in-state customers at least $275 for an initial appointment and at least $160 for each subsequent appointment. Out-of-state customers paid as much as $330 for initial visits and at least $185 for follow-up appointments.
The indictment alleges that the clinic’s practitioners prescribed thousands of oxycodone-based pills to individual customers. Some locations, including Beaver and Charleston, averaged 65 or more customers a day during a ten-hour work day with only one practitioner working.
In addition, the indictment says Blume and Radcliffe contracted the services of physicians without any knowledge of pain management whom “conducted cursory, incomplete of no medical examination of clinic customers and provided large amounts of Schedule II prescription medications to customers that they knew and had reasonable cause to believe were drug addicts.”
The indictment goes on to say that Mark Radcliffe and his son, Joshua Radcliffe, neither of whom had any formal medical education or training, “instructed medical practitioners at HOPE to provide customers with prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances, sometimes in direct contrast with the practitioner’s clinical opinions.”
This case is part of an ongoing effort by the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s office to combat the illicit sale and misuse of prescription drugs and heroin.