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Crooked Doctor Used Motorcycle Gang as Pushers and Enforcers
Building the country’s largest illicit prescription empire
(Novus reports to professionals in the treatment industry to help support and encourage the help needed to handle the epidemic of addiction in the US.)
A Philadelphia doctor who is now in jail employed the services of a notoriously violent motorcycle gang to help sell hundreds of thousands of dangerous and addictive prescription drugs over the past couple of years – until he was busted in January of this year.
The doctor’s multimillion-dollar “pill mill” operation – an illegal drug-pushing storefront masquerading as a legitimate medical clinic – prescribed pain pills for profit to anyone who asked.
The doctor’s pill mill scheme was on a level all its own – not just a crooked pain clinic like most others, but a “sophisticated drug ring run with the Pagan motorcycle gang” according to a recent story in the The Daily Beast, one that raked in $millions on phony prescriptions.
As well as enlisting the help of the Nazi-loving white supremacist Pagan motorcycle gang up and down the Eastern Seaboard, the good doctor exchanged prescriptions with local strippers for sex and allegedly caused at least one man to lethally overdose.
Dr. William J. O’Brien III, 49, and his receptionist Angela Rongione, 29, both of Philadelphia, were arrested in January and charged with running a “pill mill” from O’Brien’s medical offices in Philadelphia and Levittown, PA.
US Attorney Zane David Memeger said both defendants were charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. O’Brien was also charged with 26 counts of illegally distributing oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, and Xanax, a Schedule IV controlled substance, “outside the usual course of professional practice and for no legitimate medical purpose.”
Before the drug charges were levied by the FBI and State and Federal police, O’Brien was a known as the friendly “Doctor Bear” with a chain of apparently legitimate family practices in various Philadelphia locations.
O’Brien’s old website showed an oversized cartoon bear with an eye patch and an arm in a white sling. Alongside the bear was a picture of his attractive staff – dozens of attractive doctors and nurses beaming at the camera from the steps of a neat red brick building.
“Pediatrics, geriatrics, physical therapy, acupuncture”-his team, according to the website, did it all, The Daily Beast reported. But apparently, it wasn’t enough, because O’Brien filed for bankruptcy in November 2010.
But when O’Brien obtained a hyperbolic oxygen chamber from a local hospital later that year and began selling oxygen treatments, the FBI raided his offices and seized all the paperwork, and the chamber. The investigation was related to his bankruptcy claim.
Poor ‘Doctor Bear’, who once had employed 90 people at seven locations and had lost almost all of it, began looking for alternate sources of income. Enter the (very bad) pill mill idea.
O’Brien’s case could have slipped into the anonymous lists of so many other pill mill busts in recent years. But a newly unsealed indictment reveals the involvement of the Pagan biker gang and the incredibly massive scope of O’Brien’s vicious prescriptions operation.
Since the first arrests last January, nine new defendants have been added to the case including O’Brien’s ex-wife. And five are members of the Pagan motorcycle gang.
The Pagans started with a dozen law-abiding members for “comradeship” a couple of decades ago, but were taken over by a new leader, nick-named “Satan”, who turned the club criminal and expanded it up and down the Eastern Seaboard. With anywhere from 350 to 900 members nationwide (an official number doesn’t exist), The Daily Beast reports, they’re smaller than some other major gangs but they’re equally violent and threatening.
The bikers were given endless amounts of prescription drugs, and some even had access to patients’ medical records.
“The FBI views the Pagan’s as an incredibly dangerous organization, largely due to their connections with gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood and the Italian Mafia,” according to an article on “The 10 Deadliest Motorcycle Gangs.”
“Members of the Pagans are regularly tied to arson, bombings, and murders, and one of the gang’s favorite hobbies is stockpiling machine guns.”
Public records show that 73 Pagans were arrested in Long Island, NY, in 2002, after charging into a catering hall with bats and knives to attack a group of Hell’s Angels, their bitter rivals. Ten people were wounded and one was killed. In September 2010, 19 Pagans were arrested after police uncovered a plot to murder Hell’s Angels members with grenades.
Pagans have been busted for trafficking illegal drugs like cocaine and PCP, but their O’Brien involvement is the only documented instance of trafficking in prescription drugs.
Authorities say O’Brien’s first involvement with the Pagans was in March 2012, when he struck a deal with a Pagan leader named Joseph Mehl. A tow-truck driver by day, Mehl agreed to refer car crash victims to O’Brien, and in exchange get free prescriptions of oxycodone to sell on the street.
Mehl soon brought in four other Pagans to act as “patients” to obtain bigger quantities of opioids to sell and use personally. Soon the Pagans were bringing in “recruits” to pose as patients and obtain prescriptions – all known about by O’Brien and, according to an undercover agent, “approved” as legitimate patients by his secretary. A connection to another “patient” was required before acceptance of a new “patient,” followed by a consultation with Dr. O’Brien-no examination, just a $250 fee. Once the relationship was set, O’Brien would write prescriptions for $200 each, with no medical exam or diagnosis.
Soon, O’Brien was “raking in millions” by charging for in-demand prescriptions delivered to people he’d probably never even meet. To appear legal should anyone investigate, O’Brien falsified patient records with legitimate sounding medical diagnoses.
With as many as 36 million people abusing opioids nationwide, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, pain clinics like O’Brien’s were (and some still are) big business. Pill mills abounded in America, especially in the East and Southeast. Authorities have been heavily cracking down for several years, and have closed hundreds of them.
Florida, known as the “pill mill capital” of the U.S., had nearly 900 of them just a few years ago. Now they’re almost all closed and their proprietors – often doctors – charged with drug crimes or put out of business.
“In a matter of years,” reports The Daily Beast, “the man formerly known as Dr. Bear had prescribed 238,895 oxycodone (30 mg) pills; an estimated 11,649 oxycodone (15 mg) pills; approximately 128,370 oxycodone (10 mg) and acetaminophen pills (also known as Percocet); and approximately 160,492 methadone (10 mg) pills. Market value of the pills was $5 million, $2 million of which O’Brien pocketed.”
The most disturbing allegation in the federal indictment concerns the “Distribution of Controlled Substances Resulting in Death.” In December 2013, O’Brien’s actions are said to have caused the death of someone identified only as “patient 21.” The person succumbed to a lethal combination of prescriptions from O’Brien which included 120 oxycodone pills, 60 methadone, and 540 of cyclobenzaprine (a treatment for muscle spasms).
With the amount of pills prescribed and sold, The Daily Beast says, it’s hard to imagine that patient 21 is the only casualty of Dr. O’Brien and the Pagans’ scheme.
We tend to agree.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 15,000 people die each year from prescription painkiller overdose. If the pills were being sold to strangers, it’s unlikely the deaths can be tracked.
Here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we’re appalled when a medical doctor is discovered to be a pill-pushing drug peddler – and there have been many in recent years. Such an act strikes at the very heart of the Hippocratic Oath. And it shows how far a person can stray from the original inspiration to live a life of helping and healing.
We continue to apply ourselves to the very best of our abilities helping the victims of substance abuse get their lives back. We urge you to call Novus for help with any drug or alcohol situation. We’re always here to help.
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