Former Valdosta doctor among those sentenced in Valdosta, Columbus pill mill operation

Former Valdosta doctor among those sentenced in Valdosta, Columbus pill mill operation
(Source: Raycom Media)

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - A former Valdosta doctor was just one of seven people sentenced this week in pill mill operations that were ran out of Valdosta and Columbus.

According to Charles E. Peeler, the United States attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Dr. William Bacon, 82, was sentenced Wednesday for conspiracy to dispense controlled substances outside the usual course of medical practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. Dr. Donatus Mbanefo, 64, of Columbus, was also sentenced on Wednesday on the same charge. Mbanefo was also convicted of two additional counts of unlawful dispensation of controlled substances.

Peeler said evidence shows that in June 2011, three co-conspirators formed the Wellness Center of Valdosta on East Adair Street and Dr. Bacon began working there in September 2011.

The evidence showed that the clinic saw unrealistically large numbers of patients daily, accepted no forms of insurance or government benefits but took cash payments only of between $250 to $325 to see a patient, offered a “VIP” line which allowed patients to be seen sooner by paying additional cash.  The doctors at the clinic saw an abnormally large number of patients from out of state, including some from as far away as Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, who often traveled in groups to the clinic.  The evidence showed that the clinic offered no diagnostic testing, required only a paper MRI report, and that Dr. Bacon performed only cursory medical examinations.  No alternative treatments outside prescribing large quantities of a “cocktail” of pain medications and other controlled substances were offered to patients. The “cocktail” generally included such highly addictive controlled substances as Oxycodone and Xanax, but also included Hydromorphone, Hydrocodone, Soma, Valium and Ambien. A number of pharmacies and regulatory agencies called the clinic with concerns about the types and amounts of controlled substances prescribed.
Charles E. Peeler, the United States attorney for the Middle District of Georgia

During the roughly 27 months Bacon worked at the Wellness Center of Valdosta, Peeler said he wrote more 29,000 prescriptions for controlled substances. Those prescriptions included more than 1.8 million Oxycodone pills and more than 700,000 Xanax and Soma pills.

Bacon was sentenced to 72 months and forfeiture of over $95,000.

Dr. Mbanef was sentenced to 96 months for his role in prescribing more than 2,900 prescriptions for controlled substances in a three month period in 2013 in Columbus.

Peeler said five other co-conspirators who previously pleaded guilty for their involvement or knowledge and concealment of the conspiracy were sentenced on Thursday. Those co-conspirators are listed below, along with their sentences.

  • Carol Neema Biggs aka Carol Johnson: 60 months plus 36 months to be served consecutively
  • Junior Alexander Biggs: 50 months plus 36 months to be served consecutively
  • Nilaja Biggs: 36 months
  • Shavonta Devon Bright aka Sean: 3 years probation
  • Ionie Whorms: 3 years probation
The doctors at both clinics were paid $1,200 to $1,400 per day to see patients at the clinics, with a bonus when a doctor saw more than 40 in a single day. During the operation of the two clinics, patients made cash payments of more than $2 million to see the doctors for prescriptions.
Charles E. Peeler, the United States attorney for the Middle District of Georgia

“This case demonstrates the importance of pursuing those individuals, including licensed medical professionals, who are preying on the addictive nature of opioids and other controlled substances.” said Peeler. “My office and the Department of Justice have made efforts to control what the CDC has declared an opioid epidemic in this country that is killing people and fueling the current spike in illegal heroin trade. Doctors are not above the law and our office will continue to hold doctors accountable for illegal practices that put powerful, addictive and dangerous painkillers and other substances into the hands of those who do not medically need them.”

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