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Philadelphia Doctor Charged with Running Pill Mill

U.S. Attorney’s Office December 14, 2011
  • Eastern District of Pennsylvania (215) 861-8200

PHILADELPHIA—A 23-count indictment was returned and four informations1 were unsealed today charging a total of eight defendants, including Philadelphia physician Dr. Kermit B. Gosnell and members of his former staff, in a drug conspiracy case. Gosnell is charged with illegally prescribing highly-addictive painkillers and sedatives outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, along with related charges. The charges were announced by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge George C. Venizelos, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Vito Guarino, and Department of Health and Human Services Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio.

The indictment alleges that Gosnell, with the assistance of several of his former office staff at Family and Women’s Medical Society (“WMS”), ran a prescription “pill mill” out of his office located at 3801-3805 Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From June of 2008 through February 18, 2010, Gosnell allegedly engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise by writing and dispensing fraudulent prescriptions for thousands of pills of the frequently-abused tablets OxyContin, Percocet, and Xanax, and the frequently-abused syrups Phenergan and Promethazine with Codeine. The charges state that customers, often referred to as drug “seekers,” met with Gosnell briefly for a cursory exam or no exam, paid him a fee, and then were given prescriptions for controlled substances without there being any legitimate medical purpose for the prescriptions.

It is further alleged that Gosnell and his staff allowed customers to purchase multiple prescriptions under multiple names; that customers could place orders for refills in person, over the phone, or by leaving a message on a WMS office answering machine; and that WMS office staff would give the refill orders to Gosnell, who, without seeing the customer, would write the requested prescription and give it to WMS staff who would then collect cash and “tips” from customers. According to the indictment, Gosnell did not work at WMS during the day and saw these “seekers” in the evenings or after midnight. For the first office visit, Gosnell allegedly charged $115.00 but that increased around December of 2009 when he allegedly increased the initial office visit fee to $150.00.

The indictment alleges that Gosnell went from writing several hundred prescriptions for controlled substances per month filled at pharmacies in 2008 to over 2,300 filled at pharmacies in January of 2010. It is further alleged that during the conspiracy Gosnell, with the assistance of his staff, distributed and dispensed, for no legitimate medical purpose, more than 500,000 pills containing oxycodone, more than 400,000 pills containing alprazolam, and more than 19,000 ounces of cough syrup containing codeine.

Charged in the indictment with Gosnell are office staff defendants Sherry L. West, Tamirrah M. Fluellen, and Kareema N. Cross. Charged by information are office staff Latosha R. Lewis, Earlene Tina Baldwin, and Lynda Gail Williams. Gosnell employee Steven Massof is also charged by information with 30 counts of dispensing a controlled substance using a DEA registration number issued to another person.

The charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, distribution of a controlled substance, and maintaining a drug premises each carry a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.

Distribution of a oxycodone in a school zone carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison with a mandatory minimum one year in prison.

Continuing criminal enterprise carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment with a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.

Each count of unlawful use of a DEA registration number carries a maximum possible sentence of four years in prison.

Each defendant also faces possible fines, periods of supervised release, forfeiture and special assessments. See attached chart.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Inspector General (HHS/OIG), the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jessica Natali and Joan E. Burnes.

1An indictment or information is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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