DETROIT – Four doctors, two nurse practitioners and three pharmacists are among the 19 people who have been indicted in connection with an elaborate drug scheme that went on for years, officials said.
The opioid epidemic is still very much a problem in Metro Detroit, with people addicted to and dying from pain pills, heroin and fentanyl.
Federal investigators are working to stop those feeding the illegal street sales of those deadly drugs.
Court documents tell the story of an elaborate scheme that went on for years. It involved a system of fake patients and often pre-signed prescription pads to get opioids on the streets to be sold for top dollar.
Oxycodone, Percocet and hydrocodone are powerful pain pills that were pedaled on the streets for cash.
“These people are greedy and they don’t care about the average citizen,” said Steve Dolunt, the former assistant Detroit police chief.
Dolunt read the 44-count indictment that charged 19 people in an alleged drug conspiracy.
“A real doctor doesn’t do this,” Dount said. “They are operating a pain clinic, in my opinion, so they can get the narcotics. They are not worried about your pain. They are not worried about my pain. They are worried about the pain of not enough money in their wallets.”
Court records say John Henry Rankin III owned and managed the New Vision Rehab and Preferred Rehab clinics.
“He hired and employed medical professionals to work at the clinics to unlawfully dispense the controlled substance prescriptions,” court documents say.
Medical professionals wrote prescriptions or signed blank ones, officials said.
“Average people, some people, have pain,” Dolunt said. “They get addicted to these things, but these guys were coming up with fake patients, according to the indictment.”
The four doctors involved were Beth Carter, Robert Kenewell, Jason Brunt and John Swan.
Court documents say, “At times during the scheme, patient names would simply be provided and the medical professionals would write prescriptions and create patient charts without examining any purported patient.”
Then there were patient recruiters or marketers who recruited and maintained a cadre of “fake patients” in order to obtain an inventory of controlled substances for illegal street trafficking, according to authorities.
“I need you to come down to this clinic, and all you’ve got to do is fill out this paperwork,” Dolunt said. “You are down and out on your luck. You go to the clinic once. You sign up the first time, then they start.”
From September 2017 until June 2020, nearly 2 million pills were sold on the street in our community and out of the state. The total value is around $41 million.
“But you can get $70 in West Virginia or Ohio and you are only getting $50 up here, so why not?” Dolunt said.
One of the defendants, nurse practitioner Jean Pinkard, has reached a plea agreement in the case. The other 18 defendants are scheduled to go on trial in February.