Police have shut down a Lutherville pain clinic amid allegations that the owners were fraudulently prescribing unreasonably high amounts of powerful painkillers to patients for non-medical reasons.
The Healthy Life Medical Group, located in the 1100 block of York Road, was seeing nearly 120 patients a day and routinely prescribed the maximum allowable amount (per month) of Oxycodone, among other drugs, according to an affidavit filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court in support of a search warrant.
The clinic was raided Tuesday afternoon and two of the operators have been arrested, according to Baltimore County police. Gerald Wiseberg, 78, of Boca Raton, FL, and Michael Jacob Reznikov, 51, of Brooklyn, NY, were charged with conspiring to distribute Schedule II narcotics. More arrests are expected, according to a release sent on Thursday morning.
A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge this morning set the defendants' bail at $50,000—cash only.
“The Healthy Life clinic has been the focus of an investigation by Baltimore County Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration since April 2011,” according to a police department release. “On Tuesday, about 25 county narcotics officers and DEA agents executed federal search warrants at the clinic in the 1100 block of York Road, seizing non-drug evidence.”
In the search warrant affidavit, police outlined a scheme to prescribe a combination of Oxycodone, Alprazolam and Parafon Forte to thousands of out-of-state addicts.
The cash-only clinic generated in excess of $1 million in a four-month span, according to the affidavit.
DEA agents worked alongside the Baltimore County Police Narcotics-Diversion Unit, utilizing undercover agents between July 2011 to March 2012 to investigate the pain clinic.
In one instance, an undercover agent was asked by a clinic doctor, identified in affidavit as Dr. William Crittenden, how much pain he or she felt on a scale of 1 to 10. The agent responded “2,” suggesting a low amount of pain.
According to the affidavit, Crittenden responded, “It must be more like 4 or 6, right?”
The affidavit goes on to say, “The [agent] started to agree with him but the doctor had already made his notes on the chart.”
The doctor did not conduct any sort of physical examination and instead referred to an incomplete MRI scan each “patient” was ordered to get at an off-site location as part of the alleged scheme.
The undercover agent received a prescription for 168, 30 mg Oxycodone pills; 28, 2 mg Alprazolam pills; and 56, 500 mg Parafon Forte pills—without a legitimate medical reason, according to authorities.
This was the sort of operation Wiseberg and Reznikov—along with a woman, Alina Margulis, whom authorities believe to be Reznikov's wife—were running, investigators say. Margulis has not been charged as part of the conspiracy at this time. It is believed that Margulis and Reznikov are married.
Patients, or addicts—as described in the affidavit—would go to the clinic and were charged about $350 cash per visit. Patients were required to provide an MRI scan taken within the last two years. If the patient did not have a recent scan, the clinic (and not the patient) would set an appointment at the Washington Open MRI clinic.
Patients were charged $250 for the MRI. In December 2011, agents received information that Reznikov met with Washington Open MRI personnel and requested that they only perform a two-sequence MRI, which takes about half the time as a full MRI.
“The owner/operators of Healthy Life Medical Group did not care that the scans were low quality and were not a good diagnostic tool for identifying the source of the patient’s chronic pain, the only thing they wanted was a paper trail so they could show any investigative organization that their patients received an MRI prior to going on a regiment of opioid medications,” reads a statement from the affidavit.
Patients would then return to the clinic and be seen by a doctor. Agents observed and were told that at no time did the doctors at the clinic perform a full medical psychical examination, according to the affidavit.
Police began investigating the clinic after responding to a Giant Pharmacy in Pikesville, where three men from Kentucky attempted to fill prescriptions for large quantities of Oxycodone. The pharmacist verified that the prescriptions were valid, but still believed that they were fraudulent.
“Detectives viewed the handwritten prescriptions and immmediately noticed that Reisterstown was spelled wrong (REISTERTOWN) and the address showed two numerical numbers 9607-9604,” according to the affidavit. “The detectives felt that a professional medical facility would not misspell or put two different numerical numbers of their official prescription documents.”
The clinic relocated from the 9600 block of Reisterstown Road to the 1100 block of York Road in Lutherville on Nov. 26, according to an affidavit. In that time, the clinic's patient load ballooned from 40 to 80 patients a day to 120 to 140, according to police.