L.A. doctor, 4 others arrested in prescription drug 'pill mill' case

L.A. doctor, 4 others arrested in prescription drug 'pill mill' case
Federal authorities in Los Angeles on Tuesday announced charges against seven people who allegedly ran a trafficking ring of illegally-obtained prescription drugs out of a Los Angeles clinic. Pictured here are prescription drugs seized in unrelated raids in California. (Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times)

Federal authorities arrested five people Tuesday in connection with a "pill mill" that allegedly sold narcotics prescriptions at an L.A. clinic and supplied illegally-obtained prescription drugs to Texas.

The five, including the operator of a now-shuttered Harvard Heights clinic and a doctor who worked there, were charged in a grand jury indictment last week with narcotics trafficking and selling prescriptions for potent and addictive painkillers, anti-anxiety medication and cough syrup that are popular among addicts.


Two others accused of being part of the scheme are still being sought.

More than 10,000 presciptions were issued by Dr. Madhu Garg at Southfork Medical Clinic on South Western Avenue over a 15-month period tracked by investigators, authorities said.
More than 80% of the prescriptions were for hydrocodone – commonly known by brand names Vicodin, Norco and Lortab – or alprazolam, best known as Xanax, mostly at their maximum dosage, according to prosecutors.
Garg, 63, had her medical license revoked in late 2013 by the state medical board, which accused her of being a controlled substances abuser.
The prescriptions issued by Garg and her employees, sometimes forged under a second doctor’s name, allowed “a countless number of highly addictive prescription opioids to hit the streets of Los Angeles and Texas,” Anthony D. Williams, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's L.A. field office, said in a statement.
Los Angeles, acting U.S. Atty Stephanie Yonekura said, has become a “major source” of prescription drugs diverted to be sold on the street in the western United States.
Authorities seized nearly 10,000 pills in a 2013 raid on the Los Angeles residence of Jagehauel Gillespie, Southfork’s operator, in addition to 13 California driver’s licenses in other peoples’ names.

He and another defendant were also caught in July 2010 driving across Texas with large amounts of prescription drugs and 28 prescriptions for controlled substances issued to other people.

Gillespie charged up to $500 for prescriptions, prosecutors alleged.

Also arrested Tuesday were Diane Nunez, 24, who oversaw the clinic's day-to-day operations; Daniel Clay, 45, who allegedly shipped the drugs to Texas; and Ray Steven Benton, 56, accused of recruiting patients to obtain prescriptions at the clinic.

Authorities were still seeking Jessica Poe, 32, Gillespie’s girlfriend, who is suspected of having forged a doctor’s signature on prescriptions, and Joseph Tyree Boyance, 35, who allegedly recruited patients. 

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