A dozen people have been indicted in metro Atlanta for their roles in a statewide “pill mill” operation that began in Chamblee a year ago.
The indictments and arrests were announced on Nov. 15 by the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, Drug Enforcement Administration, Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the Georgia Drug & Narcotics Agency.
“Pill mill” refers to a pain management clinic that excessively prescribes prescription medications. In this case, doctors and pharmacists worked together in a ring that included 19 locations.
“The people that are part of this scheme are drug dealers,” said DeKalb District Attorney Robert James. “They’re dope dealers and they’re dealing in ostensibly legitimate items, so they hide in plain sight.
“A crack dealer has to hide and cower behind a garbage can or bush or building when the police come through, these people hide in plain sight,” James said. “They’re no different than crack dealers. They’re pushing poison.”
The suspects were charged with two counts of racketeering under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
James said the pill mill operation was a three-level scheme which began with an initial pain clinic set up in Chamblee approximately a year ago by owners William Dean Benton, Malcolm Dwayne Garrett and Richard Joseph Romero. The clinic, Better Living Wellness and Rehab Center of Chamblee was closed in July and later the operation reopened as Atlanta Counseling and Recovery Center in Sandy Springs.
The three men had originally owned a clinic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“They were raided by the DEA and run out of Florida for operating an illegal pill mill,” James said.
The owners “set up rules and regulations about how many people could be in the clinic, how many people could be hanging around so they wouldn’t be detected by police,” James said. “They also surveilled the parking lots and neighboring parking lots to make sure police weren’t watching. They actively participated in this criminal activity.”
After setting up the business, they recruited Curtis Edwin Wills, a psychologist from Texas, and William Floyd Garrett, a physician, James said. William Garrett and Dwayne Garrett are unrelated.
So-called patients would come from all over the country to get a purported psychological evaluation from Wills after which a prescription for Oxycodone would be written by William Garrett, according to James. Wills and Garrett would then steer the clients to pharmacists on a list.
Pharmacists arrested in the case were David Ajueyitsi, of D&B Pharmacy in Douglasville; Uko Ukoh, of Mountainview Pharmacy, in Marietta; Richard Noell and Shad Justin Sutherland, of Olde Time Pharmacy at Sixes in Canton; Chris and Christy Parker, of Village Pharmacy in Douglasville; and Christian Monyei, of FHS Pharmacy in Douglasville.
“They were prescribing 240 tablets of Oxycodone at one time for one person,” James said. “This is essentially enough to kill you over the course of a month if you simply took three tablets a day.
“The only people that actually get even near this amount are cancer patients that are in their last days, people that are dying,” James said. “Nobody prescribes this much—no doctor.”
James said that some people would come back every week to get that amount of Oxycodone and 99 percent of the customers were from out of state. One of the pharmacies did not see one single person from Georgia.
James said that while the average pharmacy sells Oxycodone for $1 per pill, these pharmacists were selling the medication for $5 per pill and the street value was $30 per pill.
“They’re not legitimate business people,” James said. “They’re not respected members of the community. They’re drug dealers. Drug dealers profit off of other people’s pain, off of other people’s addiction.”
With the indictments, James said that “hopefully somebody’s mother or child is not going to overdose on prescription drugs.”
“The [Centers for Disease Control] will tell you that more people die from prescription drugs than heroin and cocaine combined every year,” James said. “Don’t be mistaken; this is an epidemic and this is a very serious matter.”