Doctor Convicted at Trial for Unlawfully Dispensing Controlled Substances
MIAMI – On January 12, a Miami federal court jury convicted a doctor of conspiracy to unlawfully dispense and distribute controlled substances, and six counts of unlawfully dispensing controlled substances. The conviction followed a seven-day trial before U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn.
Under federal law, a physician is authorized to dispense (prescribe) controlled substances only when there is a legitimate medical basis for doing so, and the dispensing is consistent with accepted standards of professional medical practice.
According to court documents and evidence introduced at trial, Osmin Morales, 72, of Weston, Florida, established a purported pain management clinic in which he issued prescriptions for controlled substances, principally oxycodone, morphine, and alprazolam (a tranquilizer commonly known by its brand name, Xanax) to most patients who sought them, without any appropriate medical basis. On many occasions, Doctor Morales issued prescriptions for controlled substances without examining the patients, often when he was not even present in the clinic. Morales also often pre-wrote many prescriptions for controlled substances and provided them to his office managers to hand out for cash payments of $250 to regular patients, with the purpose of unlawfully maximizing the clinic’s profits.
Some of Morales’s former patients testified during trial that they had often obtained prescriptions for oxycodone, morphine, and alprazolam from the office staff without seeing Morales. One patient’s mother testified that she had begged Morales to stop prescribing narcotics to her daughter, because she was becoming dysfunctional, but he continued prescribing them.
Medical records from Morales’s office described a number of medical examinations he had purportedly conducted of patients which described the patients’ symptoms and included Morales’s diagnoses for which he prescribed opioids to them. However, official records from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed that on many of the dates for those purported examinations, Morales had been out of the country. A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent testified that Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program showed that during the time of the indictment, Morales had prescribed opioids to more than a thousand patients, most often the maximum available doses. The DEA agent also researched numerous patients by name and found that nearly one-third of them had criminal records relating to drug dealing.
A pain medicine expert witness testified that none of the patient medical records he had examined contained any proper medical basis for the use of opioids, such as oxycodone or morphine, nor any basis for the use of benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam. The pain medicine expert also testified that the combination of opioids and benzodiazepines that Morales regularly prescribed, both of which are central nervous system depressants, created an enhanced risk of overdose and death.
A former member of the Morales’s office staff testified that she had collected approximately $4,000 per day, in cash, from patients to whom Morales provided controlled substance prescriptions. On most of those days, Morales had not been present at the clinic.
Morales is scheduled to be sentenced on April 17. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the conspiracy count and the same for each of the additional counts of unlawful dispensing.
U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Deanne L. Reuter of the DEA, Miami Field Division, announced the conviction.
DEA Miami Field Division investigated the case with assistance from CBP. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida is handling prosecution and asset forfeiture.
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