Wednesday, March 3, 2010
7 News Investigations: Clinic Crackdown
7News blew the cover off the problem: Florida pain clinics feeding addictions by handing out pain pills by the millions. Now, the feds have paid some of them a visit, and they would not leave empty-handed. Tonight: a clinic crackdown. For the first time, a major crackdown on so-called pill mills here in South Florida, and 7News was there when the feds came knocking. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has our top story.
WSVN -- This upscale neighborhood in Wellington was paralyzed when authorities serving a search warrant ran into a problem.
Police told everyone to move back because a potentially explosive device had been found.
Dozens of firefighters and emergency crews stood by as the bomb squad took away the device to be detonated. So far, it has not been identified.
It was found at the home of Christopher George, who has long been associated with the American Pain Clinic. That clinic and others are the targets of a federal task force investigation.
American Pain is where 7News found people crushing and shooting up pain pills in the parking lot.
At the time, American Pain was located in Broward. The company has moved several times, most recently to a large two-story building in Lake Worth.
That building was also the target of a search by agents. A truckload of boxed-up materials was seized and taken away. The Palm Beach Sheriff's Office and Broward Sheriff's Office, plus agents from the FBI, DEA and IRS, are all part of the investigation.
Danny Aver, IRS Criminal Investigations: "All I can say is this is an ongoing federal investigation, and in order not to jeopardize any potential future investigation or prosecutions, there's no further information I can give you, at this time."
Another clinic, Executive Pain, was also hit with a search warrant. Despite clear, heavy law enforcement presence at the clinics, customers kept coming in.
These people had a stack of $20 with them that added up to $5,000. One man was arrested on an outstanding warrant.
Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero: "Did you have an appointment here this morning?"
Man: "No, not really."
But, for the most part, customers were questioned and sent away.
Carmel Cafiero: "Why would you come all the way from Kentucky to go to a pain clinic?"
Customer: "I don't go to a pain clinic."
Carmel Cafiero: "Well, what were you doing here this morning?"
Customer: "None of your business."
Woman: "We come down here for a vacation because my daughter was killed in a car wreck."
Carmel Cafiero: "How do you end up across from a pain clinic then, just sitting here?"
Woman: "We don't want to talk to you."
Authorities have released very little information about this operation, but you can be sure these are not the only pain clinics being investigated.