Two doctors, a nurse and a receptionist pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court this week to charges that they illegally distributed amphetamines at weight-loss clinics in La Verne and West Covina.
The four employees of the Bariatric Medical Clinics were indicted Aug. 17 by a federal grand jury, which accused them of distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose, Assistant U.S. Atty. Alka Sagar said.
“Undercover agents were basically able to walk right in and buy the stuff,” Sagar said. “All they had to do is say they wanted to lose weight.”
Named in the nine-count indictment were Drs. Harry L. Crone, 53, of Long Beach and Elmer C. Rigby, 75, of Beverly Hills. Also charged were Mary Jane Wilson, 38, a licensed vocational nurse from Valinda, and Melinda Wilson, 39, a receptionist from West Covina. The Wilsons are not related. All are out on bail.
If convicted of the felonies, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
All of them allegedly gave amphetamines, which can act as an appetite suppressant, to three undercover agents between Feb. 1 and March 28, Sagar said.
The agents--two men and a woman--were not overweight and were not weighed, tested or examined before being supplied with the drugs, the prosecutor said.
The only motive for the alleged drug-dealing appeared to be profit, said Sagar, adding that she did not know if most of the clinics’ patients came for the amphetamines or a legitimate medical purpose.
The clinics were shut down June 13, after federal and local investigators served search warrants and confiscated all controlled substances. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration headed the investigation, with the help of the Montclair/Chino Narcotics Task Force and the La Verne Police Department.