South Florida ‘pill mill’ operator to serve 35 years
The operator of a South Florida pain clinic company benefited as millions of oxycodone pills w ere prescribed and sold to customers who traveled from Ohio, Kentucky and other states, court records show.
Prosecutors say these “pill mills” run by Richard McMillan took in about $10 million in just over one year before raids closed the illegal enterprise in 2011.
So when itwas time Monday to punish McMillan, 44, on recent racketeering and drug trafficking convictions, Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo cited his greed and “how easy it was made by your company to get those highly addictive drugs.”
After listening to tearful remarks from McMillan’s friends about his unselfish nature, and reading letters expressing love from his two children, the judge imposed a 35-year prison sentence along with an order to pay $600,000 in fines.
Caracuzzo agreed to a request to recommend McMillan be placed in one of the state’s faith- and character-based prisons, Wakulla Correctional Institution, south of Tallahassee.
That facility says it features programs for inmates “committed to inner transformation” that leads to “mature and responsible living.”
McMillan told the judge he reads the Bible every day and “lives formy kids” ages15 and 22. He said, “No matter where I’ll go, I’ll keep helping people.”
Defense attorneys Marc Nurik and Guy Fronstin, who had requested the mandatory minimum prison term of 25 years, said the sentence and guilty verdict on 11 felonies willbe appealed, for still unspecified reasons.
The attorneys highlighted the fact that McMillan’s fate was considerably worse than other clinic owners with convictions for giving out prescriptions without real medical reasons.
They specifically mentioned federal sentences of about 15 years for Jeff George and his twin brother, Chris, who were the kingpins of a $40 million South Florida pain pill empire from2008 to 2010.
Before his two-week trial this month, McMillan declined totake a plea offer of 10 years in prison. But after nine hours of deliberations the jurors rejected his defense that he led a legitimate pain clinic network with co-defendant Pasquale Gervasio.
Assistant State Attorney Chris Hudock on Monday requested a 50-year sentence and $5.2 million in fines, which he called “a mere fraction” of the Total Medical Express company’s revenue from pushing oxycodone pills. There were clinics in Boca Raton, Margate, Palm Springs and Boynton Beach.
“The fact is that he directed the setup, the organization, the sale, and management of these clinics, while placing the poor and the powerless at substantial risk,” the prosecutor said. “And for that reason, your honor, we believe it’s absolutely essential that you send a message to the defendant that his behavior is completely unacceptable.”
But Nurik said a halfcentury behind bars would be the same as sentencing McMillan to die in prison.
“Certainly a 25-year sentence serves the purpose of punishing Mr. McMillan substantially,” Nurik said. “It certainly sends all of the messages that the state wishes to have sent out into the general public about the seriousness of the crime.”
Judge Caracuzzo said her overriding concern was for the victims.
“I’m not doing this to send a message to you, Mr. McMillan,” the judge said. “I think that you get the message. Why I’m doing this is the wrong — what has been done to society— and to help people when looking forward if they want a business venture to understand there’s consequences to choices thatwe make.”
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials calculated the clinics, including locations near Orlando and Jacksonville, sold more than 2 million oxycodone pills to customers before the crackdown.
Customers usually paid $200 or $300 in cash or with credit payments to see doctors on staff. Oxycodone pills, sold for $5 or $6 each, were dispensed from an in-house pharmacy, prosecutors said.
Faced with what they called an epidemic of pill mills, Florida legislators years ago passed laws requiring stricter enforcement of pain clinics and a statewide drug-monitoring database.
Oneof the key witnesses at McMillan’s trial was his ex-partner, Gervasio, 40, who has pleaded guilty to one federal count of money laundering conspiracy and four state felonies, including racketeering.
Gervasio, now living in New Jersey, has said he hopes his maximum 10-year sentence will be cut in half because of his testimony that the clinic business, once called Palm Beach Pain & Rejuvenation, was a front to unload as many pain pills as possible.
“We didn’t want to turn down the revenue,” he said of tactics calling for customers to see doctors for just five minutes.
McMillan’s attorneys called Gervasio a liar trying to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.
McMillan testified that he relied on the 17 doctors to do the right thing. A former debt consolidator, mortgage agent and limousine business owner, McMillan also told the jurors all income from the pain clinics was properly reported on tax returns.
The defense challenged the allegations that patients of the clinics were given pills no questions asked. Nurik and Fronstin say the clinic files show that 1,274 patients, out of a total of 11,259, were discharged without being treated.
But prosecutor Hudock pointed out Monday that still means most customers got the pills.
Friends and loved ones of McMillan testified about his resolve for assisting the homeless and others in need, and his resolve to remain sober for 25 years after battling an addiction.
“I have watched my dad help countless people,” wrote his son, Ian Warren, 22, in a letter. Hewas in the courtroom but too upset to speak.
Todd Langenmayr, a longtime friend, broke down crying about his pal he called “Richie.”
“I’ve never been this sad inmy life,” he said.
Richard McMillan told Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo he reads the Bible every day and “lives for my kids.”