Drug Monitoring Program Expands throughout U.S. to Thwart Doctor Shopping

Prescription fraud, commonly known as doctor shopping, is a huge problem throughout the United States, including Florida. In 2009 the Federal Centers for Disease Control labeled Florida as the epicenter of prescription drug abuse epidemic.

Nationwide, the prescription drug abuse epidemic has been attributed to lack of prescription monitoring programs and medical personnel oversight. In 2011 Florida enacted the E-FORSE (Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substance Evaluation) program. The program is designed to prevent over prescribing of drugs and doctor shopping.

While reported drug overdoses have declined in Florida, many have criticized the effectiveness of the program citing doctors do not consistently use the program and the program does not have national reach.

In April of 2016, New Jersey legislators announced that the state would expand its prescription drug monitoring program, part of a mass effort to cease out-of-state doctor shopping and prescription drug abuse.  New Jersey joins 7 other states, including South Carolina, New York, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia, Connecticut, and Delaware in this effort.

Under this monitoring program, New Jersey doctors would be able to see a patient’s prescription history within the state and any prescriptions written by other doctors in 7 states. Although Florida does not participate in this interstate monitoring program, Florida criminalizes doctor shopping and could possible join this effort.

What is Doctor Shopping?

Doctor Shopping is the practice, or habit of visiting multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions for otherwise illegal drugs. Typically, it’s common practice for drug addicts and suppliers of drug addicts.

A doctor shopper will normally visit multiple health care clinics as a “new patient” or “visiting from out of town” and will exaggerate medical problems in order to obtain prescription medications.

Florida Stat. § 893.13(7)(a), (8), and (9) are the doctor shopping laws that makes it a felony offense to withhold information from a practitioner from who the person seeks to obtain a controlled substance or prescription for a controlled substance when the individual making the request has received a controlled substance or prescription from another practitioner within the previous 30 days.

Prescriptions Drugs Statistics

According to DEA statistics in 2010, the state had over 900 unregulated pain management clinics. Data also showed that these clinics employed 90 of the top 100 oxycodone dispensing physicians in the country.

Of the top 50 oxycodone dispensing clinics in the U.S., 49 were located in Florida and were selling more than 1 million oxycodone pills a month.

Before E-FORSE was implemented by the Florida legislature, it was projected from state medical examiners documents that about 10 individuals each day died of prescription drug overdose, primarily due to oxycodone.

Doctor Shopping Penalties

  • Misdemeanor or felony conviction
  • Up to 1 year in jail or 3 years in prison
  • Up to $20,000 in fines
  • 1-5 years’ probation
  • Community service, an amount determined by the court

Who can be charged?

  1. Any patient who attempts to obtain and/or obtains prescription of a controlled substance through fraud;
  2. Any medical professional who makes a false statement in any prescription, order, report or record;
  3. Anyone who falsely assumes the title of, or represents himself to be a pharmacist, physician, dentist, veterinarian, registered nurse, physician’s assistant; or
  4.  Any person other authorized person and anyone who affixes any false or forged label to a package or receptacle containing controlled substances.

Conclusion

The attorneys of Meltzer & Bell, P.A. are experienced criminal defense attorneys based in West Palm Beach, Florida. The team of attorneys at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. defend individuals facing any drug crime, including prescription fraud, drug possession, drug trafficking, drug distribution, and marijuana possession.

Former prosecutor, Lawrence M. Meltzer, and former public defender, Steven K. Bell, possess the knowledge and skill to build the strongest defense on your behalf.  Meltzer & Bell, P.A. diligently defends individuals throughout Palm Beach County, including West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, Delray Beach, and surrounding areas.

Contact the Palm Beach Doctor Shopping Defense Attorneys of Meltzer & Bell, P.A. for a confidential review of your case at (561) 283-3259. The partners of Meltzer & Bell, P.A. are available 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

Phil Mickelson Reportedly Tied to Money Laundering And Illegal Gambling, Per ESPN Reports

ESPN.com is reporting that nearly $3 million transferred from golfer Phil Mickelson to an intermediary was part of “an illegal gambling operation which accepted and placed bets on sporting events,” according to two sources and court documents obtained by Outside the Lines.

Mickelson, a five-time major winner and one of the PGA Tour’s wealthiest and most popular players, has not been charged with a crime and is not under federal investigation. But a 56-year-old former sports gambling handicapper, acting as a conduit for an offshore gambling operation, pleaded guilty last week to laundering approximately $2.75 million of money that two sources told Outside the Lines belonged to Mickelson.

Gregory Silveira of La Quinta plead guilty to three counts of money laundering of funds from an unnamed “gambling client” of his between February 2010 and February 2013. Sources familiar with the case said Mickelson, who was not named in court documents, is the unnamed “gambling client.” Silveira is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5 before U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips and faces up to 60 years in prison, though the sentence will likely be far shorter.

Mickelson could not be reached for comment. His longtime personal attorney, Glenn Cohen, declined to comment, saying another attorney — whom he would not name — assisted Mickelson in the matter.

Silveira could not be reached for comment directly and his attorney declined to comment.

According to court documents, in March 2010, Silveira — a participant in “an illegal gambling operation which accepted and placed bets on sporting events” — accepted a wire transfer of $2.75 million, which he knew was part of “illegal sports betting.”

The money, according to the documents, came from a “gambling client” and had been transferred into Silveira’s Wells Fargo Bank account. Three days later, Silveira transferred $2.475 million and then $275,000 into another of his Wells Fargo accounts. The next day, Silveira transferred the $2.475 million to another account he controlled at JPMorgan Chase Bank.

The three transactions constitute the money laundering charges: “At the time, defendant initiated these three transfers with the intent to promote the carrying on of an illegal gambling operation,” according to the plea agreement, which was signed May 1.

Typical of money laundering cases, the nearly $3 million is loosely described as “proceeds” in court documents, though that doesn’t necessarily mean in this case gambling winnings or losings. “Proceeds” also could refer to money simply being moved into an offshore gambling account. Federal officials declined to clarify or provide details.

Court documents do not indicate what triggered the investigation or its scope.

Although the final plea agreement reached between Silveira and the U.S. Department of Justice does not name the “gambling client,” an initial plea agreement signed last month by Silveira and his attorney, James D. Henderson Sr., contained a reference to the “money laundering of funds from P.M.”

After Outside the Lines inquired about Mickelson’s potential role in the case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office on June 17 filed a motion to have the original plea agreement stricken. The next day, it filed an amended version minus any reference to “P.M.”

It is standard Department of Justice policy for documents not to mention third parties who are not criminally charged. Henderson, a high-powered Los Angeles attorney whose gambling-related clients have included offshore sportsbook pioneer Ron “Cigar” Sacco, told Outside the Lines he didn’t “know anything about ‘P.M.'” and declined to comment further, citing a nearly four-decade practice of not talking to the media about cases.

Two sources, though, told Outside the Lines that the client was Mickelson.

Mickelson has earned more than $77 million over his three decades on the PGA Tour and also has lucrative endorsement deals with Callaway, Barclays, KPMG, Exxon Mobil, Rolex and Amgen that collectively pay him more than $40 million annually, according to Forbes.

The left-handed golfer is known for rarely shying away from a money match, and his affinity for sports gambling is no secret, either.  Mickelson has won large sums betting on major sporting events like the Super Bowl; three Las Vegas gaming sources told Outside the Lines that Mickelson still bets on sports in Vegas.

Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the PGA Tour, declined to comment on the Silveira matter and the Tour’s gambling policies.

Should you be the target of a federal investigation, please call Meltzer & Bell for a free consultation. There is no-cost until you decide to hire our firm. Let us give you some assistance and peace of mind before you meet with law enforcement personnel.

Baseball’s Latest Drama Likely To Resolve With Indictments, Not Suspensions

Getting Arrested

Make no mistake about it. This will go down as the biggest scandal to hit professional sports since the Black Sox Scandal and the throwing of the 1919 World Series.

Major League Baseball is not going to summon a Ted Wells-like figure to come out with a blue-ribbon fact finding report and issue suspensions and sanctions against the St. Louis Cardinals and members of their front office that might be found to have culpability in this situation.

People are going to go to prison.

When the Federal Bureau of Investigation gets involved, and then makes it public, they are advertising the fact that a Grand Jury will soon be convening and that indictments will be handed down. Once the indictments are handed down, the Department of Justice will begin to prosecute those individuals that they believe are guilty of committing these crimes. You will then see the accused scurry to make deals, turn on each other and fight for their freedom.

There are two types of defendants in Federal actions. Those that cooperate with the feds and those that wish that they cooperated with the feds. The feds give out long prison sentences like candy on Halloween.

According to The New York Times, law enforcement officials believe the hacking was executed by vengeful front-office employees for the Cardinals, hoping to wreak havoc on the work of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager, who had been a successful and polarizing executive with the Cardinals until 2011.

Believing that the Astros’ network had been compromised by a rogue hacker, Major League Baseball notified the F.B.I., and the authorities in Houston opened an investigation. Agents soon found that the Astros’ network had been entered from a computer at a home that some Cardinals employees had lived in. The agents then turned their attention to the team’s front office.

“The F.B.I. aggressively investigates all potential threats to public- and private-sector systems,” an F.B.I. spokeswoman said to the Times. “Once our investigations are complete, we pursue all appropriate avenues to hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”

This is bigger than Deflategate and this is bigger than Bullygate. Ted Wells cannot fix this and he cannot issue a 200-page report to make a recommendation to anyone that will sweep this under the rug. He cannot get with Rob Manfred and make this go away. Once the Department of Justice and the Federal Alphabets get involved and sink their teeth into something, they are like rabid dogs. They do not let go until all of the life is gone and they get what they need to satiate their appetite and see that justice has been done.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch will play the greater role of Ted Wells and she will be armed with a team full of federal prosecutors who will come equipped with subpoenas; they will get to the bottom of this. When they do, people will end up in prison, not with multiple-game suspensions.

This was bound to happen sooner or later. Front office personnel move from team to team and passwords do not get changed as often as they need to be, and teams apparently do not do a good enough job protecting their intellectual property. It is not like the Cardinals used sophisticated equipment. Former employees had passwords and used them surreptitiously and without the consent of their former employer. The Astros trusted that they would have honor and they simply did not.

Is there no honor in baseball any more? Tom Hanks said that there was no crying, but is there also no honor?

Major League Baseball “has been aware of and has fully cooperated with the federal investigation into the illegal breach of the Astros’ baseball operations database,” a spokesman for Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a written statement.

According to the Times, the Cardinals personnel under investigation have not been put on leave, suspended or fired. The commissioner’s office will probably wait until the conclusion of the government’s investigation to determine whether to take disciplinary action against the employees or the team.

If they were smart, they would use this time to lawyer up, get their affairs in order and prepare for a short prison term. There is no way that they do not see the inside of the Bureau of Prisons. They also might want to get their resume together, as they will never work in baseball again, unless it is mowing the grass or getting the field ready for play.

The case is a rare mark of ignominy for the Cardinals, one of the sport’s most revered and popular organizations. The team has the best record in the Majors this season (43-21), regularly commands outsize television ratings and has reached the National League Championship Series nine times since 2000. The Cardinals, who last won the World Series in 2011, have 11 titles overall, second only to the Yankees.

From 1994 to 2012, the Astros and the Cardinals were division rivals in the N.L. Central. For a part of that time, Luhnow was a Cardinals executive, primarily handling scouting and player development. One of many innovative thinkers drawn to the sport by the statistics-based “Moneyball” phenomenon, he was credited with building baseball’s best minor league system, and with drafting several players who would become linchpins of that 2011 Cardinals team.

The Astros then hired Mr. Luhnow as general manager in December 2011, just before they morphed into the American League, and he quickly began applying his unconventional approach to running a baseball team. In an exploration of the team’s radical transformation, Bloomberg Business dubbed it “a project unlike anything baseball has seen before.”

Under Luhnow’s direction, the Astros have accomplished a striking turnaround; they are in first place in the American League West division. But in 2013, before their revival at the Major League level, their internal deliberations about statistics and players were compromised, the law enforcement officials said.

The intrusion did not appear to be sophisticated, the law enforcement officials said. When Mr. Luhnow was with the Cardinals, the team built a computer network, called Redbird, to house all of its baseball operations information — including scouting reports and player information. After he left to join the Astros, and took some front-office personnel with him from the Cardinals, Houston created a similar program known as Ground Control.

It contained the Astros’ “collective baseball knowledge,” according to a Bloomberg article published last year that was referenced by the Times. The program took a series of variables and weighted them “according to the values determined by the team’s statisticians, physicist, doctors, scouts and coaches,” the article said.

Investigators believe that Cardinals personnel, concerned that Luhnow had taken their idea and proprietary baseball information to the Astros, examined a master list of passwords used by Luhnow and the other officials when they worked for the Cardinals. The Cardinals employees are believed to have used those passwords to gain access to the Astros’ network, law enforcement officials said.

That tactic is often used by cybercriminals, who sell passwords from one breach on the underground market, where others buy them and test them on other websites, including banking and brokerage services. The breach on the Astros would be one of the first known instances of a corporate competitor using the tactic against a rival. It is also, security experts say, just one more reason people are advised not to use the same passwords across different sites and services.

Last year, some of the information from the Astros’ computers was posted anonymously online, according to an article posted on Deadspin. Among the details that were exposed were trade discussions that the Astros had with other teams. Luhnow was asked after the story broke whether the breach would affect how he dealt with other teams.

“Today I used a pencil and paper in all my conversations,” he said.

This story isn’t going to go away, and it’s going to end with real-world punishments. Just what those are remains to be seen.

If you are under investigation for any crime, or are the target of any federal or state probe, call the Law Offices of Meltzer & Bell for a free, no-obligation consultation. We might be able to resolve your matter, or have the charges reduced before they get to the filing stages. Rely on the experience of Lawrence M. Meltzer, Esq. and Steven Bell, Esq. to represent you diligently and zealously in any state or federal court in Florida.

Will U.S. Supreme Court Deliver Another Landmark Decision on Racial Discrimination?

During the jury selection process, a judge may dismiss a prospective juror “for cause” if he or she believes that juror will be unable to decide the case impartially. However, both the prosecutors and the defense attorneys are also given a limited number of “peremptory challenges,” which are the right to strike certain prospective jurors without having to provide any reason for doing so.

This is a powerful right, but the United States Supreme Court has established certain precedents to make sure that peremptory challenges are not abused. One case was the 1986 landmark decision in Batson v. Kentucky, in which James Kirkland Batson, a black man, was convicted of burglary and receipt of stolen goods by an all-white jury after prosecutors struck all four potential black jurors. In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled that the striking of prospective black jurors in this case violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Batson decision is one that is likely to be revisited when the Supreme Court hears Timothy Tyrone Foster v. Carl Humphrey this fall. Less than one year after the Batson decision, Foster was convicted of murdering a 79-year-old widow and schoolteacher in Georgia. Foster is black and the victim was white, but notes in documents uncovered by Foster’s legal team show that prosecutors deliberately struck prospective black jurors in his case.

Ordinarily, it can be very difficult to prove that a prosecutor had racist intent in striking prospective jurors for criminal cases involving capital offenses such as violent crimes. However, some of the notes that were discovered through an open records request seem to make the prosecution’s intent remarkably clear. On four different copies of the jury list, the name of every black prospective juror was highlighted in green. The word “BLACK” was circled next to the question about race on the juror questionnaires of five black prospective jurors. Furthermore, prosecutors not only ranked each black prospective juror against the others in case “it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors,” but created strike lists that contradict the “race-neutral” explanation provided by the prosecution for striking those jurors.

While Justice Lewis Powell wrote the majority opinion in Batson, Justice Thurgood Marshall authored a powerful concurring opinion:

I join Justice Powell’s eloquent opinion for the Court, which takes a historic step toward eliminating the shameful practice of racial discrimination in the selection of juries. I nonetheless write separately to express my views. The decision today will not end the racial discrimination that peremptories inject into the jury-selection process. That goal can be accomplished only by eliminating peremptory challenges entirely.

Misuse of the peremptory challenge to exclude black jurors has become both common and flagrant.

Nearly 30 years after Batson, we are hopeful that the Roberts Court will similarly establish legal safeguards that ensure that every American—regardless of his or her race—has the right to a fair trial.