PDT Staff Writer
A federal grand jury on Wednesday has indicted the owner of three pain clinics, including two in Portsmouth, and six of the doctors federal agents say he hired to satisfy the demand for the illegal diversion of prescription drugs in central and southern Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee. The indictment alleges that the defendants, Tracy Bias, 47, of West Portsmouth, Dr. Mark Fantauzzi, and five other doctors, conspired to write prescriptions for powerful pain medications outside the scope of legitimate medical practice, and that their conspiracy resulted in the death of at least one customer.
FBI agents and task force officers from the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office and the Portsmouth Police Department, serving as members of the Southern Ohio Drug Task Force, arrested Bias in Portsmouth on Wednesday. He appeared before visiting U.S. Magistrate Judge Candace Smith, who ordered him held without bond and scheduled a detention hearing for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, in federal court in Cincinnati. The other defendants will be summoned to appear for their initial appearances and arraignment. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of $6,725,000 representing the proceeds from illegal activities involved at the clinics.
The 12-count indictment alleges that between January 2009 and June 2011, Bias owned and operated Southern Ohio Complete Pain Management and Portsmouth Medical Solutions in Portsmouth, and Trinity Medical Care in Columbus, Ohio, even though he has no known medical education. He allegedly secured doctors for brief periods of time ranging from one day to several years through what are known as locum tenens or temporary service contracts to prescribe pain medication for customers at his clinics.
Customers allegedly traveled hundreds of miles to the clinics in central and southern Ohio where, for a cash payment of about $200 per office visit and with little or no physical examination, clinic customers would receive excessive amounts of “cocktails” of controlled substances including diazepam, hydrocodone, oxycodone and alprazalam.
Fantauzzi was one of four physicians whose DEA Certificates of Registration were immediately suspended in May 2011 when the FBI, DEA, the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, the State Medical Board of Ohio, the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office and Portsmouth Police raided the four offices and a pharmacy. In November 2011, Fantauzzi surrendered his state medical license.
The other doctors named in Thursday’s indictments included Joon H. Chong, 69, of Coldwater, Mich.; John Dalhsten, 55, of Burlington, Iowa; Marcellus Jajuan Gilreath, 49, of Cleveland, Ohio; Stephen L. Pierce, 62, of Gallup, N.M., and James E. Lassiter, 58, of Findlay, Ohio. Fantauzzi’s address was listed on the press release by federal officials as unknown.
All seven are charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs outside the scope of legitimate medical practice, a crime that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Bias and Chong are charged with distribution of controlled substances that resulted in death, a crime punishable by at least 20 years and up to life in prison. Bias is charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, a crime punishable by at least 20 years and up to life in prison.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.