Leaving Las Vegas: Prison Time for ‘Pill Mill’ Nurse

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic zoomed in on the small city of Portsmouth, Ohio. Why? In an interview about this book, the author, Sam Quinones explained. It was “the pill mill capital of America.” He went on to say, “They had more pill mills per capita in that town than anywhere else in the country.”

A “pill mill” – what exactly is it? A law enforcement journal defines the term. “A pill mill is an operation in which a doctor, clinic or pharmacy prescribes and/or dispenses narcotics without a legitimate medical purpose.” According to this source, these set ups are huge money makers for those who are managing them, namely members of the medical community. There are other characteristics. One is that frequently those in charge have run other unscrupulous operations.

Bingo! That fits the description of a situation right here in Las Vegas. News 3 Las Vegas reported on this recently. A nurse spearheaded this operation in coordination with two others – a surgical technician and a physician. The scheme centered on writing prescriptions for narcotics without “a legitimate purpose.” As such, patients received Rx’s for Hydrocodone and Oxycodone. In turn, the nurse received a reward in cash.

This Las Vegas pill mill ran from January to May 2018. The charges against the nurses included Medicare and Medicaid fraud; that dated back to July 2016 and ran through December 2017. In those incidents, patients received prescriptions for anesthetics, stimulants, and pain relievers. There was one major catch. These Rx’s came without a physical exam. Patients took their medication orders to a particular pharmacy, which paid for the referrals. For this arrangement alone, the nurse received a hefty sum of about $30,000. All told, the nurse defrauded the health care system of some $3.7 million.

Leaving Las Vegas

The Department of Justice announced the outcome of the case against the nurse toward the end of May. He will be heading to federal prison for more than six years. The charges included illegal dispensing of opioids and, as mentioned, Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

There’s more to the punishment. Once the nurse completes his prison term, he will have to serve three years of supervised release. Plus, he will have to pay more than $3.7 million in restitution.

Pill mills pour dangerous substances into society, to the detriment of many. As the book Dreamland depicted, these pill mills served as driving forces for the opioid epidemic. Criminal charges and sentences help stem the tide of its spread. However, in its wake, many struggle with chemical dependency.

Local World-class Option

Recovery is not far away. In Las Vegas, Desert Hope offers high quality medical care and addiction treatment. A member of the American Addiction Centers network, this oasis offers a path to all who walk through its doors to reclaim their lives. The multidisciplinary team welcomes men and women, veterans and first responders from the local area and afar. Everyone receives a customized treatment plan tailored to their needs.

From medical detox to inpatient and outpatient treatment, Desert Hope provides a full continuum of care. The facility proudly displays the gold seal of approval from The Joint Commission. And it is accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). In turn, we make a guarantee to our clients. Those who successfully complete our 90-day treatment program will stay clean and sober. We stand by this pledge. Otherwise, please return for a complimentary 30 days of treatment. To get started, visit our online admissions page. Your recovery is waiting.


Read More from Sherry M. Adler:

Rx for Trouble: Opioids for Teens and Young Adults in Pain

Wheels Matter on the Road to Recovery

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