Queen Anne’s Drug Task Force shuts down al­leged pill mill

Record Observer - - News - By AN­GELA PRICE bay­times@kibay­times.com

STEVENSVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Drug Task Force has shut down an al­leged pill mill in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Busi­ness Park on Kent Is­land.

Mid At­lantic Well­ness Cen­ter, ad­ver­tised as a chronic pain man­age­ment clinic, was dis­pens­ing pre­scrip­tions for cash with­out a le­git­i­mate med­i­cal pur­pose, po­lice said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan last sum­mer. The clinic is lo­cated in Suite E at 101 Log Ca­noe Cir­cle in Stevensville, and the own­ers and other ten­ants com­plained the busi­ness was caus­ing “qual­ity of life is­sues” for them, po­lice said.

The task force said they sent an un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tor into the clinic and soon dis­cov­ered the ma­jor­ity of the pa­tients were com­ing to the clinic in search of pre­scrip­tions for oxy­codone, mor­phine and other nar­cotics that they in­tended to abuse and sell on the street for profit. The un­der­cover of­fi­cer was of­fered nar­cotics by other pa­tients and made mul­ti­ple hand-to-hand pur­chases of Sched­ule II nar­cotics both in the wait­ing room and away from the of­fice, po­lice said.

Dur­ing De­cem­ber 2016 and Jan­uary 2017, po­lice ar­rested the in­di­vid­u­als who had con­ducted the hand-to-hand trans­ac­tions as they ar­rived at Mid At­lantic Well­ness for their vis­its. The names of those ar­rested were not di­vulged.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors then ob­tained ar­rest war­rants for the owner of the clinic, Richard Delavega, 51, of Port To­bacco, its sec­re­tary, Chris­tine Sal­dana, 38, of Har­ring­ton, Del., and physi­cian’s as­sis­tant Laura Niewen­hous, 64, of Prince Fred­er­ick.

Po­lice said Niewen­hous was the one writ­ing pre­scrip­tions. They did not say how many doses of painkillers might have been pre­scribed to addicts or drug deal­ers or how many peo­ple the clinic saw daily. Ac­cord­ing to the busi­ness’ Face­book page, it opened in the busi­ness park in 2015. The first post on the page is from Au­gust 2015. The cost for an ini­tial con­sul­ta­tion is listed at $350, with fol­low up vis­its at $275.

On Jan. 31, the task force, as­sisted by Tfc. D. Waddell, Dfc. Ryan David­son and Dfc. Nathan Burns, ar­rested Delavega, Sal­dana and Niewen­hous at the clinic. Po­lice said they learned Delavega also had an out­stand­ing ar­rest war­rant for fail­ure to ap­pear in an­other case.

Niewen­hous and Sal­dana were charged with main­tain­ing a com­mon nui­sance — distribut­ing nar­cotics and help­ing per­sons ob­tain a pre­scrip­tion us­ing false in­for­ma­tion. Delavega was charged with main­tain­ing a com­mon nui­sance — distribut­ing nar­cotics. Court records show an ad­dress of Jupiter, Fla., for Delavega.

Both Sal­dana and Niewen­hous posted $10,000 bond and were re­leased the same day they were ar­rested. Delavega posted $50,000 bond and also was re­leased Jan. 31.

Nei­ther Niewen­hous nor Delavega are listed on the Mary­land Board of Physi­cians web­site.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­tin­u­ing.

PHOTO BY CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

The Mid At­lantic Well­ness Cen­ter, 101 Log Ca­noe Cir­cle, Suite E, in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Busi­ness Park in Stevensville, is closed af­ter the owner and staff were ar­rested and charged with help­ing peo­ple ob­tain pre­scrip­tions with false in­for­ma­tion and main­tain­ing a com­mon nui­sance.

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