Federal Court Orders Clinic to Close, Physician and Clinic Owners to Pay $600,000 for Alleged Unlawful Opioid Distribution
WASHINGTON – A federal court ordered a Tampa-area pain management clinic to close and directed the clinic’s owners and its former physician to collectively pay $600,000 in civil penalties pursuant to agreed resolutions in a case alleging violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Justice Department announced today.
In a complaint filed in February 2021, the United States alleged that Dr. Tobias Bacaner wrote prescriptions for opioids without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice while employed at Paragon Community Healthcare, a pain clinic in New Port Richey, Florida. The complaint alleged that Paragon’s owners, Theodore Ferguson II and Timothy Ferguson, managed the clinic’s operations and profited from the unlawful prescribing while ignoring obvious signs of drug abuse and diversion. The complaint further alleged that Dr. Bacaner and the Fergusons used their jointly owned pharmacy, Cobalt Pharmacy, to unlawfully fill prescriptions issued at Paragon without scrutiny.
The order against Dr. Bacaner requires him to pay $500,000 in civil penalties and prohibits him from prescribing, administering, dispensing or distributing controlled substances, among other restrictions. The order against the Fergusons and Paragon requires them to jointly pay $100,000 in civil penalties. The order also requires Paragon to permanently close, and places restrictions on the Fergusons’ ability to own or work at entities that administer, dispense or distribute controlled substances in the future. The defendants also agreed to permanently dissolve Cobalt Pharmacy, which closed shortly before the government filed suit.
“Physicians who prescribe opioids without a legitimate medical purpose and outside of the usual course of professional practice and others who facilitate that conduct will be held accountable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will continue to aggressively use all available enforcement remedies to prevent the unlawful diversion of potentially dangerous prescription drugs.”
“Dr. Bacaner and his associates profited from unlawfully prescribing opioids without a legitimate medical purpose,” said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Roger B. Handberg. “We will continue to protect the community from those who place a higher value on profit than the safety of the public.”
“Our communities place trust in their medical professionals to help them. The actions of Dr. Bacaner and owners of this clinic violated this trust,” said Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Miami Field Division Special Agent in Charge Deanne L. Reuter. “This settlement highlights DEA’s commitment to hold medical providers accountable for violating laws designed to protect the health and safety of our communities. The closure of these businesses and the prohibition to continue to exploit those in need, ensures the wellbeing of patients everywhere.”
The investigation was conducted by the DEA Tampa District Office.
U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington entered the consent decree in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay S. Griffin and Trial Attorneys Scott Dahlquist and Tom Rosso of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch.
If you are aware of controlled substance violations in your community, please submit your anonymous tip through the DEA online Tip Line at Submit a Tip | DEA.gov. Concerns about prescription drug abuse or diversion can be reported to the DEA through this link: RX Abuse Online Reporting (usdoj.gov).
The DEA encourages parents, teachers, care givers, guardians, and children to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com , www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com , www.CampusDrugPrevention.gov , and www.dea.gov.
Follow DEA Miami via Twitter at @DEAMIAMIDIV