Poinciana physician gets 25 years in prison for prescription drug sales.

Jose Menendez, a Poinciana physician, got 25 years in prison for his role in a drug trafficking operation.

POINCIANA – Two years ago, Osceola County detectives busted two men and charged them with illegally trafficking in prescription drugs. The trail led them to Sarasota, and then to a local doctor’s office in Poinciana.
On Friday, a Poinciana physician was sentenced to more than two decades in prison for his role in what the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office is calling a major drug trafficking operation.
Dr. Jose Menendez-Campos, 46, of 1871 Laurel Brook Loop in Casselberry, was sentenced to 25 years in state prison for his involvement in this organized drug trafficking operation that spread from Osceola County to Sarasota. He was also required to pay a $500,000 fine. Campos worked at an office in a shopping plaza in Poinciana.
During the trial, Campos pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic in 28 grams or more of Oxycodone, a prescription painkiller.
Campos’ arrest highlights the fact that in Florida, legally prescribed drugs have become as much of a problem as illegal ones, and one of the most common names when it comes to the diversion of legal pharmaceuticals for illegal use is Oxycodone.
The growing problem of prescription drug abuse has become a major concern for local law enforcement agencies. Orange County has already imposed a moratorium on new pain management clinics, and Osceola County commissioners are considering a similar ordinance.
So-called “pill mills” are where doctors write prescriptions for pain killing medications that in some cases can be highly addictive. The abuse of prescription drugs is considered one of the nation’s fastest growing drug problems.
The Center for Drug Free Living Addictions Receiving Facility in Orlando has reported that addictions to heroin have, until recently, made up 47 percent of the patient base at this forty-bed inpatient detoxification stabilization facility, while pharmaceuticals – and that included all the pain pills – was at 50 percent. By October 2010, those numbers jumped to 83 percent for pain pills, 15 percent for heroin and 2 percent for Methadone.
It’s been estimated that pill mills can bring in $25,000 a day, and these clinics are particularly prevalent in south Florida. Broward and Palm Beach counties have 200 known pill mills. Some even advertise “No wait, walk in’s welcome for chronic pain” out front.
With Florida’s reputation for these pill mills on the rise, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency recently released data showing that 98 of the top 100 doctors dispensing Oxycodone nationally are in Florida, concentrated in Miami, Tampa, and Orlando, and that 126 million pills of Oxycodone are dispensed through Florida pharmacies.
Osceola County commissioners recently considered a moratorium on new pain management clinics – there are currently 14 operating in the county – after Osceola County Sheriff Bob Hansell testified that in 2010, his office made more than 300 arrests for illegal prescription drugs. More than 100 of those arrests involved trafficking illegal prescription drugs, primarily Oxycodone and OxyContin. The Medical Examiner’s Office also reported that there were 10 deaths in 2010 in Osceola County involving the misuse of prescription drugs.
State and local detectives began investigating the drug operation that Campos was involved in two years ago. In early May 2010, Osceola County Investigative Bureau agents got a tip about a possible drug trafficking operation involving prescription drugs.
On Oct. 26, OCIB agents conducted an undercover operation and arrested two suspects, Tyrone Anderson and William Frank Sellers, for their involvement in the drug trafficking, and as part of the operation, detectives recovered 56 prescriptions for 18 separate patients.
“Based on the arrests, agents were able to obtain two search warrants in Sarasota County,” said Twis Lizasuain, public information officer for the Osceola County Sheriff’s office.
The Sarasota Police Department and Sarasota Sheriff’s Office served those warrants and took into evidence 8 pounds of marijuana, two firearms, one ballistic vest and $10,000 in cash.
“They also took into evidence hundreds of empty pill bottles and approximately 2,000 pills, of which 200 were Oxycodone, most of which listed Dr. Menendez as the doctor prescribing the drugs,” Lizasuain noted.
A search warrant was then issued for Physicians Care Partners, Inc., the business located at 3358 N. Southport Road in Poinciana where Menendez worked. He was brought in for questioning and, Lizasuain said, “cooperated with agents.”
Campos was selling the painkiller to a group of business associates, investigators reported. Those associates would then get the prescriptions filled, and would distribute those pills on the streets of Sarasota.
On Oct. 28, a warrant was issued for Menendez’s arrest on a charge of conspiracy to traffic oxycodone.
He was prosecuted by the Florida Office of Statewide Prosecution.
“This illegal operation was responsible for distributing large quantities of prescription pills throughout western Florida,” Attorney General Pam Bondi noted on her web site.
Tyrone Anderson is expected to be sentenced later this year.
The investigation was a joint effort conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Osceola County Investigative Bureau, Sarasota Police Department, Sarasota Sheriff’s Office, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Health and Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

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Sex predators beware: the eyes of law enforcement are on you.

The Internet allows millions worldwide to search the web anonymously. But when it comes to sexual predators, a Central Florida task force is doing everything possible to track their moves. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

BARTOW – There are, sadly, all too many adults who are searching the Internet for minors, and who use chat rooms and other web sites to find teenagers for sex.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has a strong warning for them: they are truly being watched these days.
“The numbers are sobering,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are 747,408 registered sex offenders in the country today — an increase of 7,555 offenders, or 23 percent, from the previous survey in June 2011.”
The research by NCMEC, he added, “shows that approximately one in every seven children ages 10 to 17 receive a sexual solicitation or are approached sexually online. These are disturbing figures, but there is good news – the increase in the number of registered sexual offenders means there is an increase nationwide of agencies arresting suspects who prey on children.”
That’s particularly true, he added, in Central Florida.
In September 2007, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was named coordinator of the Central Florida Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. In the past five years, the task force has grown considerably, and as of this month, it’s made up of representatives from 47 local, state, and federal agencies.
What that means is that being a part of the task force, each one of those law enforcement agencies has “shared and gained valuable experience and knowledge in the realm of Internet crimes against children,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The task force now covers a wide geographic area, comprised of the counties of Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Manatee, Polk, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, and Seminole.
ICAC was developed in 1998 in response to a disturbing rise in the number of children and teenagers using the Internet, the proliferation of child pornography online, and heightened online activity by predators seeking unsupervised contact with potential underage victims. To combat these problems, ICAC assists state and local law enforcement agencies in developing a response to “cyber enticement” of minors, and child pornography cases.
Today, ICAC is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing more than 2,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. These agencies take part in proactive investigations, forensic investigations, and criminal prosecutions. By helping state and local agencies to develop effective, sustainable responses to online child victimization and child pornography, OJJDP has increased their ability to address Internet crimes against children.
“Protecting our children is our main priority here at the sheriff’s office,” Judd said. “And we are honored to be joined by so many other agencies in this effort.” The results have shown in recent months in Polk County.
Earlier this month, an engineering student from Gainesville, who was on probation for traveling to meet a 14-year-old girl to have sex with her, ended up in the Polk County Jail after detectives say the mother of a teenage girl contacted them, claiming the male student had come to Polk County to have sex with her daughter.
In December, seven men from across Central Florida were arrested and charged with engaging in sexually explicit online chats, text messages and telephone calls with girls and boys ages 10 to 14 — only to discover that when they went to meet with them, the kids were actually detectives with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office taking part in an online sting.
Detectives with the sheriff’s office’s Internet Crimes unit posed as children, and attracted the interest and attention of seven men, including two from Lakeland, and one each from Lake Wales, Kissimmee, Perry, Casselberry and St. Augustine.
When they showed up to meet the young boys or girls, they were arrested and charged with traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Regionally, in 2011 the Central Florida ICAC Task Force successfully investigated 1,156 cases involving suspects using the Internet to victimize children.
“This is a 37 percent increase over 2010, during which the task force investigated 726 such cases,” Eleazer noted.
In 2011, the task force arrested 306 suspects for crimes that included use of a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for the purpose of sex, using a computer to solicit a minor to engage in sex, lewd battery, and distribution of child pornography.
“The total number of arrests made since the formation of the Central Florida ICAC Task Force year-to-date is 1,082,” Eleazer said.
In 2011, ICAC affiliates conducted seven undercover operations, and the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office conducted 11 training sessions throughout the year to a multitude of agencies on how an operation like this is run.
Each operation got involved the investigation and arrests of suspects who were arrested for traveling to engage in sex acts with children.
“In each instance, agencies in the Central Florida Task Force come together in a collaborative effort to ensure the great success of each operation,” Eleazer noted.
Since the ICAC program’s inception in 1998, more than 338,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other professionals have been trained in the United States and in 17 countries on techniques to investigate and prosecute ICAC-related cases.
Across Central Florida, Judd noted, law enforcement is watching every sexual predator closely.
“Together,” he said, “we are making a positive difference.”

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Adding a little spice to your life? Consider your spice rack.

Can common spices like Ginger and Cumin have medicinal benefits as well as adding a nice flavor to your cooking? (Photo by Michael Freeman).

LAKE MARY – Linda Hathaway is adamant in her advice to others who, like Hathaway herself, like the idea of using herbs, spices and natural remedies to boost the body’s immune system, rather than relying on anti-biotics and other medications.
“Don’t stop taking your regular medicine,” she said. That’s particularly true, she added, if the patient has a condition such as high blood pressure that would benefit from that prescribed medication.
On the other hand, Hathaway is a firm believer in educational information – particularly when it comes to spices that are easy to find in just about any cook’s home, and have far greater benefits than adding a touch of flavor to the pot roast.
“Cloves is something most people have in their homes,” Hathaway said. “It’s used in aroma therapy. It helps clear the lungs.”
So much so, she added, that spices can actually create the right aroma in a room, but in a natural way.
“I prefer the scent of natural spices over scented candles,” she said. “I don’t have any scented candles any more. I had asthma for years and got rid of the candles – and that got rid of the asthma.”
In addition to clearing the lungs, Hathaway said cloves have another benefit .
“The essential oils of cloves can be used to kill ants,” she said. “It can also be an insect repellent.”
Hathaway lives in Central Florida and is a member of the Orlando chapter of American Mensa, the largest and oldest high-IQ society in the world, for people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on Mensa’s intelligence admissions test.
Over this past weekend, the Central Florida Mensa hosted its “2012: Year of the Apocalypse” Regional Gathering at the Orlando Lake Mary Marriott in Lake Mary. It was a weekend designed for intellectual pursuits – an SET tournament, an original game of visual perception; a Scrabble tournament; a Rubik’s Cube speedcubing lecture; even a taco lunch.
During the weekend event, Hathaway gave a presentation on “Therapeutic spices,” with a focus on five common spices that people have in their kitchen – and their medicinal uses. As Hathaway noted, she loves to play in the kitchen and create aromatic spice blends for friends, family, and to sell. She is also a cancer survivor, and has long been interested in spices and herbs and their properties as they relate to health and well being. And these days, she added, there’s more information than ever before about ways to boost your health in a natural way.
“The Internet is a great source of information,” she said. “There are a lot of web sites out there for people who don’t want to take drugs and prefer natural remedies.”
Take, for example, cayenne pepper, she said. It does more than add a hot taste to a meal.
“It increases metabolism,” she said. “It is good for high blood pressure. It cleans out the arteries. It’s actually good for rebuilding tissues in the stomach. Hot stuff.”
Again good spice, she added, is ginger.
“Ginger is used for a lot of things,” she said. “It improves congestion, it stimulates circulation, and it relieves pain. It sharpens your senses, smell, taste and sharpens your mind. It has circulation-boosting properties.”
Tamarack is another household spice with medicinal purposes, she added.
“Tamarack is a natural anti-septic and natural healing agent,” she said. “You can get them at vitamin stores and health food stores in pill form.”
But keep in mind, she added, that using spices for health benefits or medicinal purposes is just one part of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes eating right, exercising, and taking care of yourself.
“Your metabolism is more your whole body, the way you process things,” she said. “It’s like a teenage boy and a teenage girl. A teenage boy can eat all he wants and he will burn it all off. A middle aged woman can eat the same things, and – wow, here you go.”

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