The California Department of Justice was one of five law enforcement agencies investigating a Los Angeles “Pill Mill” medical clinic that lead to the arrest of five suspects January 13, 2015.
Authorities arrested the five in California and Texas after a federal grand jury issued a 33-count indictment. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this was a narcotics trafficking ring in which illegal prescriptions were sold for a flat rate of $500 at the now-closed Southfork Medical Clinic in Los Angeles and the drugs obtained with those prescriptions were shipped to Texas for sale on the black market.
Prescriptions were allegedly sold for drugs that included oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam (best known by the brand name Xanax), carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant) and promethazine with codeine (a cough syrup sold on the street as “purple drank” and “sizzurp”).
Those arrested were:
Jagehauel Gillespie, 39, of Houston, the operator of Southfork, and alleged ringleader, who allegedly charged flat fees of up to $500 for prescriptions. Investigators seized nearly 10,000 pills from his home in January 2013 and 48 bottles of promethazine with codeine from a car driven across Texas by Gillespie and another suspect in July 2010. Gillespie is also charged with using fake identities and fraudulent driver’s licenses to fill prescriptions at Los Angeles-area pharmacies. Gillespie faces up to 149 years in federal prison if convicted.
Dr. Madhu Garg, 63, of Glendora, California, the medical doctor who wrote prescriptions at Southfork, allegedly without any medical necessity, before the Medical Board of California revoked her license in late 2013. Garg, issued more than 10,000 prescriptions – with nearly 80 percent of those for hydrocodone or alprazolam, most of which were at the maximum dosage – over a 15-month period, according to records maintained by the State of California. In addition to drug counts, Garg is charged with money laundering for allegedly wiring money obtained from the drug conspiracy to an account in Kuala Lumpur.
Diane Nunez, 24, of Long Beach, California, who oversaw day-to-day operations at Southfork.
Daniel Clay, 45, of Houston, who allegedly shipped controlled substances from Southern California to Texas.
Ray Steven Benton, 56, of Baldwin Hills, California, a “capper” who allegedly recruited patients to obtain prescriptions at Southfork. Benton is also charged with firearms offenses and with using fake identities and fraudulent driver’s licenses to fill prescriptions at Los Angeles-area pharmacies.
“Los Angeles is a major source of the deadly and addictive prescription drugs that are diverted to street sales across the Western United States,” said Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Yonekura. “This case is the latest in a series of prosecutions clearly demonstrating that law enforcement is committed to stemming the tide of drugs being diverted to the black market, as well as putting an end to medical professionals who abuse their prescription pads and their ethical obligations.”
The indictment describes multiple undercover operations conducted during the investigation. During an October 2013 meeting at Southfork, Gillespie allegedly agreed that Garg would prescribe oxycodone and promethazine with codeine for an undercover cooperator in exchange for the person returning to the clinic with bottles of the prescribed cough syrup. Later that day, Garg allegedly gave the undercover witness prescriptions for those drugs and agreed to issue more prescriptions later that week under a different patient name. Six days later, during another meeting at Southfork, Gillespie allegedly gave the undercover witness forged prescriptions for oxycodone and promethazine with codeine using another doctor’s name and medical license number.
“Local, state and federal agents and investigators have their hands full with these types of cases which are often lengthy and complex, ” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “The DOJ agents and many state investigators we represent are continually working to put a stop to unscrupulous, law-breaking doctors who are chipping away at the health and welfare of others and our communities by allowing these powerful drugs to hit the streets.”
Two other suspects named in the indictment are currently being sought by authorities. Those two fugitives are:
Jessica Poe, 32, of Inglewood, California, Gillespie’s girlfriend, who allegedly forged a doctor’s signature on prescriptions; and
Joseph Tyree Boyance, 35, whose whereabouts are presently unknown, a “capper” who recruited patients to obtain prescriptions at Southfork.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Los Angeles and Houston field divisions, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Department of Justice, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.