43ºF

19 Metro Detroiters charged in opioid scheme involving 4 doctors, 5 pharmacies, 2 million pills

Officials bust $41 million opioid distribution scheme involving Wayne, Oakland, Macomb counties

A doctor holding pills.
A doctor holding pills. (Pexels)

DETROIT – Officials said 19 people from 12 different cities, primarily in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, have been charged in a massive $41 million opioid distribution scheme that involved four doctors, two nurses, nearly 2 million pills and five Metro Detroit pharmacies.

READ: West Bloomfield doctor accused of illegally prescribing patient 478 pills day before overdose

The group is accused in a scheme designed to prescribe controlled substances -- such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, oxycodone-acetaminophen (Percocet), hydrocodone, hydrocodone-acetaminophen and promethazine with codeine cough syrup -- to patients who didn’t have a medical need for the drugs.

19 people charged

Here are the 19 people charged in the case:

  • John Henry Rankin, III, 46, of Detroit
  • Dr. Beth Carter, 56, of Southfield
  • Dr. Robert Kenewell, 52, of Auburn Hills
  • Dr. Jason Brunt, 50, of Clawson
  • Dr. John Swan, 30, of St. Clair Shores
  • Nurse practitioner Jean Pinkard, 63, of Farmington Hills
  • Nurse practitioner Toni Green, 58, of St. Clair Shores
  • Fitzgerald Hudson, 60, of Southfield
  • Virendra Gaidhane, 49, of Troy
  • Pharmacist Maksudali Saiyad, 65, of Troy
  • Pharmacist Adeniyi Adepoju, 61, of Warren
  • Pharmacist Ali Sabbagh, 36, of Dearborn Heights
  • Robert King, 38, of Taylor
  • Jermaine Hamblin, 36, of Roseville
  • Sonya Mitchell, 50, of Southfield
  • Lavar Carter, 56, of Southfield
  • Robert Lee Dower Jr., 49, of Eastpointe
  • Denise Sailes, 51, of Detroit
  • Dewayne Bason, 28, of Detroit

Scheme overview

From September 2017 through June 2020, Rankin, the owner of New Vision Rehab and Preferred Rehab, both in Warren, paid four doctors -- Beth Carter, Kenewell, Brunt and Swan -- and two nurse practitioners -- Pinkard and Green -- to write opioid prescriptions for patients who didn’t really need them, according to authorities.

Rankin also paid Hudson, who wasn’t licensed to prescribe controlled substances or practice as a doctor, to issue pre-signed prescriptions in the names of other providers, officials said.

The medical professionals charged in the scheme prescribed more than 1,951,148 doses of Schedule II controlled substances and 739 doses of promethazine with codeine cough syrup, court records show.

The oxycodone and oxymorphone alone carries a street value of more than $41 million, officials said.

Patients were recruited into the scheme by “marketers,” including King and Hamblin, authorities said.

During the conspiracy, prescriptions were presented to Detroit New Hope Pharmacy, Synergy Pharmacy in Clinton Township, Nottingham Pharmacy in Detroit, Crownz Medical Pharmacy in Warren and Franklin Healthmart in Southfield.

Gaidhane is the owner of Detroit New Hope Pharmacy, where Saiyad worked as a pharmacist and Bason worked as a pharmacy technician, officials said. Bason also worked as a pharmacy technician at Synergy Pharmacy and Gaidhane is the owner of Nottingham Pharmacy, court records show.

Adepoju was a pharmacist at Crownz Medical Pharmacy and Sabbagh was a pharmacist at Frnaklin Healthmart, according to authorities.

Some of the pharmacists would bill insurance companies, including Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers, to dispense the pills, even though they were medically unnecessary, according to court records.

Billings to Medicare and Medicaid programs for bogus prescriptions exceeded $146,000, authorities said.

The pharmacists would also accept cash from recruiters for filling and dispensing medicine, officials said.

MORE: Espresso Royale Coffee forced to permanently shut down business due to pandemic

The indictment says the pharmacies dispensed more than 58,725 doses of Schedule II controlled substances that were prescribed by the medical professionals above.

“Prescription drugs are supposed to go to people who truly need them, not to fake patients or people selling drugs on the streets,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said. “We are focusing on charging doctors, pharmacists and the networks that add to the opioid crisis, and this case is unfortunately yet another example of the serious problem facing Michigan.”

How all 19 fit into alleged scheme

Doctors and nurse practitioners

Officials said it was Rankin’s role to run the day-to-day operations of the clinics involved in the scheme. He would collect cash payment for the drugs and hire workers to illegally dispense them, according to authorities.

Beth Carter, Kenewell, Brunt, Swan, Pinkard and Green were all licensed by the state to practice medicine and authorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe controlled substances.

“Each of those prescribers knowingly prescribed prescription drug controlled substances outside the course of legitimate medical practice and for no legitimate medical purpose, in furtherance of the scheme,” the indictment says.

The doctors and nurse practitioners would write prescriptions or sign blank prescriptions to be completed by others, officials said.

They would often issue prescriptions after cursory exams or without seeing patients at all, according to court records.

At times during the scheme, patient names would be provided to these doctors and nurses, and they would write prescriptions and create patient charts without even examining the patient, officials said.

Fake doctor

Hudson would sometimes pose as a doctor and issue pre-signed prescriptions in the names of other providers, authorities said.

Office employees and recruiters

Court records say when Rankin couldn’t manage the medical practices, he hired office employees, including Mitchell, Lavar Carter, Dower and Sailes. Those four would then facilitate the prescriptions and collect payment, officials said.

King, Hamblin and others maintained a pool of fake patients by recruiting people and creating an inventory of drugs for illegal street trafficking, court records show.

Pharmacists

Recruiters would give names to Rankin or others in order to take out prescriptions in those names, authorities said. Then, officials allege, those prescriptions would be filled at one of the above pharmacies, manned by Gaidhane, Saiyad, Bason, Adepoju and Sabbagh.

When dispensing the drugs, the pharmacists -- Saiyad, Adepoju and Sabbagh -- ignored their responsibility to make sure they were being issued for legitimate medical purposes, court records say.

Gaidhane, Saiyad and Bason would slot appointments and only fill prescriptions for certain patients and doctors at certain times in order to keep the scheme a secret, officials said.

Instead of giving those drugs to the named patients, the drugs would be give to the patient recruiter, officials said. Those recruiters would then sell the drugs on the street market, usually through a network of drug dealers, according to the indictment.

Rankin would sometimes keep the drugs to distribute them on the streets in Metro Detroit and out of state, authorities said.

Known distribution incidents

Rankin and Beth Carter are specifically accused of illegally distributing 30 mg pills of oxycodone on five separate instances: 90 doses on April 17, 2018, to two different patients, 90 doses to a patient on Nov. 27, 2018, 90 doses to a patient on May 29, 2019, and 75 doses to a patient on Oct. 16, 2019.

Rankin and Kenewell are specifically accused of illegally distributing drugs on the following dates:

  • April 6, 2020: 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg)
  • April 24, 2020: 60 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • March 16, 2020: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • March 30, 2020: 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg)
  • April 2, 2020: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • April 15, 2020: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • April 29, 2020: 90 doses of hydrocodone-acetaminophen (10/325 mg)

Rankin and Brunt are specifically accused of illegally distributing drugs on the following dates:

  • Aug. 12, 2019: 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg)
  • Aug. 16, 2019: 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg)
  • Aug. 22, 2019: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • Aug. 27, 2019: 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg)
  • March 31, 2020: 90 doses of Xanax (2 mg)
  • March 31, 2020: 60 doses of Adderall (30 mg)

Rankin and Swan are specifically accused of illegally distributing drugs on the following dates:

  • Jan. 7, 2020: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • March 3, 2020: 90 doses of oxycodone-acetaminophen (10/325 mg)
  • April 6, 2020: 90 doses of hydrocodone-acetaminophen (10/325 mg)
  • April 7, 2020: 90 doses of hydrocodone-acetaminophen (10/325 mg)
  • April 27, 2020: 100 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • April 27, 2020: 100 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)

Rankin and Pinkard are specifically accused of illegally distributing drugs on the following dates:

  • Nov. 22, 2019: 75 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • Dec. 18, 2019: 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg)
  • Dec. 30, 2019: 75 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • Feb. 17, 2020: 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg)
  • Feb. 25, 2020: 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg)
  • April 28, 2020: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)

Rankin and Green are specifically accused of illegally distributing drugs on the following dates:

  • Oct. 10, 2018: 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg)
  • Oct. 12, 2018: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • Dec. 12, 2018: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • Jan. 15, 2019: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)
  • April 12, 2019: 90 doses of oxycodone-acetaminophen (10/325 mg)
  • Feb. 28, 2020: 90 doses of oxycodone (30 mg)

Brunt, Gaidhane, Saiyad and Hamblin are accused of illegally distributing 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg) each to patients on Sept. 10, 2019 and Sept. 16, 2019.

Brunt, Gaidhane, Saiyad, Hamblin and Bason are accused of illegally distributing 75 doses of oxycodone (30 mg) to a patient on Sept. 11, 2019, and 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg) to a patient on Sept. 13, 2019.

Brunt, Sabbagh and King are accused of illegally distributing 60 doses of oxymorphone (40 mg) each to patients on Jan. 24, 2020, and Jan. 29, 2020.

Charges

Rankin is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and 36 counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

Brunt is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and 12 counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

Kenewell is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and eight counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substance.

Swan, Pinkard and Green are each charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and six counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

Beth Carter is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and five counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

Gaidhane, Saiyad and Hamblin are each charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and four counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

Sabbagh and King are each charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and three counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

Bason is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and two counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances.

Hudson, Adepoju, Mitchell, Lavar Carter, Dower and Sailes are each charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

All 19 people involved are ordered to forfeit any money or property they gained as a result of the scheme, the indictment says.


About the Author: