Friday, May 8, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Pill Mill Law
The state legislature has passed a bill that will for the first time track the sale of prescription pain pills in Florida. Law enforcement says it will put the brakes on pain clinics that are popping up all over South Florida. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero who first exposed Pill Mills, says it appears they're feeling the pressure.
WSVN -- Security around South Florida pill mills has been beefed up, no doubt fueled by police pressure and media exposure.
Carmel Cafiero: "We have pictures of people snorting, shooting up in this parking lot after coming out of your clinic."
Seven News first showed you the drug activity around South Florida pain clinics, as carload after carload of out of state customers came down to get addictive pain pills with no regulation. Now, three women have come forward to say they were chased after trying to expose this pain clinic in Boca Raton.
The man running toward the car is a security guard. This was the beginning of a chase that lasted almost three miles.
Carmel Cafiero: "The woman says, when she was approached by clinic security, she was here in the middle of a public street. The clinic is on one side, there's another strip mall on the other side, and the woman says, in order to get away, because the street was blocked, she had to back up onto Federal Highway."
In her video, you can see a black truck first blocking the street and later following her. She frantically calls 911.
Woman: "I'm scared to pull over because he's going to get me."
Woman: "Oh, my God, he's getting out of the car cause we're at a stop sign."
She drove off and the chase continued until she pulled into a fire station.
Woman: "Well, what if he gets out of the car?"
911 Dispatcher: "We have units on the way over there. Keep your doors locked and just sit there."
Boca Police showed up, and the incident was dismissed with the woman being given a warning about trespassing.
This video was taken inside a pain clinic by a woman who considers herself a citizen journalist. She posted it on the Internet.
Shirley Coffie-Maldonado: "Because I think people need to know."
Shirley Coffie-Maldonado says when she was spotted taping in the parking lot, she and a friend were chased and threatened by clinic workers.
Shirley Coffie-Maldonado: "One has a knife and the other one has a set of keys in between his knuckles going, 'You don't want any of this, you better come with us.'"
They got away but filed no police report and neither did this woman who snapped a picture inside the pain clinic and was chased. It didn't show much, but she says to get away, she had to hide in a nearby business and is still afraid to show her face.
Woman: "I was fearful. I didn't understand why this man was being so aggressive to me."
A spokesman for the clinic turned down our request for comment. When we were there, security did not try to stop us from taking pictures.
Sheriff Al Lamberti: "We see exactly what you describe in our surveillance of these clinics."
Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti says, there are 89 pill mills in Broward County alone dispensing more than a million Oxycodone pills every month, and between the public and police, they are feeling the pressure.
Sheriff Al Lamberti: "Without a doubt I'm sure they've seen stories just like yours where they know we are now targeting them."
BSO has dedicated a lot of resources to dealing with the problem from undercover busts...
Detective Henry Lopez: "She says she has a dealer right down the street."
To traffic patrols that lead to drug arrests.
BSO spokesman Mike Jachles: "The deputies observed, in plain view, a pill bottle that had the label ripped off or was missing a label."
The sheriff says his deputies are dealing with a new drug dealer.
Sheriff Al Lamberti: "It's not on the street corner. It's in a store front with a guy in a lab coat and a stethoscope."
The sheriff is pleased the legislature passed the new law aimed at regulating the pain clinics, but first it has to be signed by the governor and then put into effect. In the meantime, pill mills remain big money operations.
Sheriff Al Lamberti: "It's such a high dollar business. The risks are high. It's like the old time organized crime."
And, like all crime, some profit but many more suffer.