MIAMI (CBS4) – Six South Florida men were indicted Wednesday for operating seven alleged pill mills in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
Those charged in the indictment are 42-year old Vincent Colangelo of Davie, 28-year old Nicholaus Thomas of Ft. Lauderdale, 27-year old Rachel Bass of Pompano Beach, 26-year old Michael Plesak of Plantation, 31-year old Jeremiah Flowers of Ft. Meyers and 45-year old Wayne Richards of Lighthouse Point. All are in custody except for Flowers.
According to the indictment, all six are accused of conspiring to distribute and dispense more than 660,000 dosage units of oxycodone. Colangelo, Plesak and Bass are also charged with one count each of conspiring to launder the proceeds of the pain clinics and twenty-six counts of money laundering.
Lastly, the indictment seeks forfeiture of more than $22 million in cash and assets. Among the assets sought to be forfeited are more than 46 vehicles and vessels, including a Mercedes-Benz SLR Mclaren, numerous Dodge Vipers, and two Lamborghinis, as well as expensive real estate and a trailer park in Okeechobee.
The indictment alleges that the defendants marketed the clinics through more than 1,600 internet sites, required immediate cash payments from patients for a clinic “visit fee,” directed the patients to obtain MRIs that the defendants knew to be inferior, over-aggressively interpreted MRIs in order to justify prescriptions, and falsified patients’ urine tests for a fee to justify the highly addictive pain medications.
“According to recent estimates, Florida prescribes ten times more oxycodone pills than all other states combined. Operation Snake Oil is part of our concerted effort to keep South Florida from drowning in pill mills,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A .Ferrer in a statement. “Working together with our state and local partners, we are shutting down these shady storefronts through the systematic prosecution of doctors, clinic owners and operators who deal drugs while hiding behind a medical license.”
According to the indictment, demand of oxycodone has grown to epidemic proportions in South Florida and other parts of the United States, where drug dealers can sell a 30 mg oxycodone pill on the street for $10 to $30 or more. Oxycodone has a high potential for abuse and can be crushed snorted, or dissolved and injected, to get an immediate high. This abuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and sometimes death.