LAKELAND — The 80-year-old owner of a dental clinic has been arrested and charged with overprescribing controlled narcotics to patients who were not experiencing any pain.
Detectives said he also enabled his own daughter to keep up an addiction to pain meds.
Dr. William Johnson, owner of the Sonrise Dental Clinic in Lakeland, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with a third degree felony. Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives, working with inspectors from the state Department of Health and the Office of State Attorney Jerry Hill, had been investigating Johnson since May.
That was when detectives arrested 46-year-old Stacey Sumner, Johnson’s daughter, along with 62-year-old Lois McDermott, and charged them with trafficking in Hydrocodone.
Sumner also got charged with two counts of forgery and two counts of obtaining a prescription by fraud, following an investigation which revealed she had been forging the name of her father, Dr. Johnson, on prescriptions for Hydrocodone pills.
She was, detectives say, getting them filled to support her own addiction. Stacey Sumner worked as a receptionist in her father’s dental clinic.
Over a 15-month period, the arrest report notes, Sumner forged 519 prescriptions for her own use, while McDermott helped her by picking up the pills at various pharmacies and bringing them to her.
After the arrests were made last spring, Polk County detectives got search warrants for Dr. Johnson’s office. Accompanied by Department of Health inspectors, they did a random check of his patient files and found the vast majority were getting prescribed narcotics.
“Of the 43 files pulled, 31 patients were prescribed controlled narcotics, Hydrocodone, by Dr. Johnson, without any diagnosis that supported chronic pain,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the arrest. “Department of Health inspectors determined that Dr. Johnson was prescribing controlled narcotics to 72 percent of his patients.”
Detectives also concluded that Johnson “facilitated his daughter Stacey’s addiction to controlled narcotics,” Eleazer said.
As a result, detectives began an investigation into his practice, and concluded he had knowingly overprescribed controlled narcotics, a violation of Florida law.
Johnson’s patient files were given by detectives to Dr. Gregory Scott of Lakeland for his professional opinion.
The sheriff’s office said Scott reviewed the files and responded back that, “There is no explanation for the frequency and numbers of prescriptions written for several of the patients, and they are not written within the realm of normal dental practice.”
On Wednesday, Johnson was placed under arrest and booked into the Polk County Jail on one count of knowingly overprescribing controlled narcotics.
But it wasn’t the only arrest made of a local pharmacist.
Also on Wednesday, in a separate, unrelated undercover investigation, Polk County Sheriff’s Office narcotics detectives arrested another Polk County pharmacist for trafficking in prescription drugs.
In this investigations, an undercover detective took a prescription written for 30 Oxycontin pills, 60 milligrams each, to the Med Express Rx pharmacy at 1717 Shepherd Road in Lakeland.
“The prescription was written by a dentist in Lakeland who was working in cooperation with law enforcement,” Eleazer noted.
The undercover detective gave the prescription to the pharmacist, 35-year-old Ashish Patel of Valrico, and asked him to change it to Oxycodone. The undercover detective also filled in a blank, signed prescription given to her by the dentist, for 30 Oxycodone.
“Although Patel made several comments about how unusual it was for a dentist to write these prescriptions, and noted that the handwriting on one — the one filled out by the detective — was different than the other, he negotiated with the detective and agreed to sell her 70 Oxycodone 30 milligram pills for $1,000 cash,” Eleazer said. “He gave her 50 pills that day, and she paid him $1,000. He told her to come back the next day for 20 more pills.”
When the detective returned, Patel asked for $540 more and agreed to give her 10 additional pills, Eleazer noted.
“During the negotiation, Patel asked the detective to roll the windows down on her car so he could see inside and confirm there was nobody in the car with her,” Eleazer said. “He also asked her if she was a law enforcement officer.”
The illegal sale of the Oxycodone pills took place at the pharmacy, which is within 1,000 feet of a day care facility.
On Wednesday, Patel was arrested and charged with one count of trafficking in Oxycodone, two counts of conducting the sale of Oxycodone within 1,000 feet of a child care facility, and one count of maintaining a structure for illegal trafficking.
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