Operation “Pill Street Blues” Lands 14 in JailRings & Mills — By Trace America on June 29, 2012 at 2:50 PM
If you grew up watching Hill Street Blues, it probably conjures up images of cop cars, police badges and 80’s style moustaches. But Pill Street Blues? Now that’s a whole different issue.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently investigated into several people and raided several clinics in Florida as part of a huge pill mill operation, aptly named “Operation Pill Street Blues.”
By the end of day on June 27th, numerous people –including 7 doctors, 7 pain clinic owners, and 2 firefighters, faced a long list of charges.
According to CBS News, cameras were there as the DEA, FDLE, Florida Department of Health and other agencies raided a local clinic, Miami-Dade Medical Solutions, on the morning of June 27th.
The DEA states that the man in charge of the multi-million dollar operation is a Pompano Beach firefighter, Lewis Stouffer. Another Pompano firefighter, Craig Turturo, is also facing charges in the case.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark Trouville said, “Stouffer acted as an organizer, an advisor, and consultant to clinic owners, managers and doctors. Stouffer went through great lengths to make sure his associates operated a seemingly legitimate business and provided them schemes on how to break the system.”
Investigators say Stouffer used his position and his knowledge of other high-profile pill mill investigations to run his scheme. And it was successful, the DEA says, to the tune of more than 2 million oxycodone pills being dispensed by the 7 doctors in just one year.
Trouville stated, “Stouffer did this in greed and for profit. They did this for one reason only: to make money off of prescription drugs.”
The DEA notes that the investigation began back in 2010, when law enforcement received complaints about suspicious goings-on at Stuart Pain Management in Vero Beach. Investigators say they traced that clinic, along with 8 others, to Stouffer.
Also on the 27th, the feds announced that they had seized 59 bank accounts totaling $1.1 million dollars and served a total of 13 search warrants –including 7 at pain clinics in Miami, Vero Beach, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Gainesville and Pensacola.
The DEA and health officials say doctors were recruited to prescribe large quantities of dangerous prescription drugs like oxycodone that weren’t medically necessary. The state health department says each of the doctors arrested has had their medical licenses suspended.
State records note that the registered agent for Miami-Dade Medical solutions is Bernice Turturo. What a coincidence that a woman with the same name was arrested 2 weeks ago with her husband Frank and accused of running a Pompano Beach pill mill.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office says a raid on the Turturo’s home resulted in dozens of guns and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti said, “It’s a cash business and it’s no different than traditional organized crime.”
Both of the Turturo’s remain in jail, and they aren’t alone. Dr. Michael Bengala, a physician from Pompano Beach, was arrested on the 27th as well. Investigators say Bengala doled out prescription drugs at the Miami-Dade clinic for cash without ever doing thorough exams of patients.
His attorney, Brian Silber, denies the allegations of course. He said, “We would deny any and all wrongdoing. We are conducting our own investigation.”
Other evidence shows the unfeeling nature of the conversations between the pain clinic employees when it comes to the deaths of some of their patients.
According to the Florida health department, intercepted phone calls from earlier this year show a couple of higher ups discussing one of the doctors –Dr. Richard Gordon. The conversation arose after “…two of the patients that he treated already died.” One of the employees says Dr. Gordon is “bad luck.”
The document also reveals that a phone conversation was recorded in which Dr. Gordon admitted that “he lied to police when the police interviewed him regarding one of the deceased patients.”
Health investigators note that during the 2 year investigation of the Miami-Dade clinic there were at least 3 overdose deaths and one murder/suicide connected to the business.
The DEA also says it intercepted phone calls between Stouffer and a co-defendant, Bruce Karlin. They were discussing the death of Forrest Cyphers, a patient of Dr. Gordon’s. Investigators say Stouffer told the co-defendant not to be upset because “people die every day.” Both Dr. Gordon and Karlin are charged with manslaughter in Cyphers’ death.
“These defendants are despicable,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. “They are sickening. They are worse than the typical defendant. Why? Because they have a title in front of their names like doctor.”
“Two of them are firefighters who used their trust to enhance their businesses. Two firefighters that are suppose to be out saving lives, instead are stealing lives.”
A spokesperson for the city of Pompano Beach noted that both firefighters are suspended without pay. They also both began at the department together 11 years ago and apparently have spotless records. Until now of course.
This post is authored by Trace America.