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