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80-year-old Polk dentist accused of over-prescribing pain pills

6:53 PM, Sep 5, 2012   |    comments
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Winter Haven, Florida - Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd calls them "greedy" and "dope peddlers," when talking about an elderly dentist and two pharmacists arrested.

Sheriff Judd has long since gone after pain pill pushers in his county, and these men he says are "misfits operating outside of the law."

On Wednesday, Polk detectives, along with Department of Health inspectors and the Office of State Attorney, arrested 80-year-old William Johnson. Dr. Johnson is the owner of the Sonrise Dental Clinic in Lakeland. He's charged him with a third degree felony -- Knowingly Overprescribing Controlled Narcotics.

The investigation began back in May, when detectives arrested Dr. Johnson's stepdaughter, 46-year-old Stacey Sumner.  Sumner was accused of forging her stepfather's name on prescriptions for Hydrocodone pills and getting them filled to support her own addiction to the pills.

Stacey worked as a receptionist in her father's dental clinic. Deputies say over a 15-month period, Sumner forged 519 prescriptions for her own personal use. That brought suspicion upon the clinic, and Polk detectives obtained search warrants for Dr. Johnson's office.

Department of Health inspectors say that Dr. Johnson was prescribing controlled narcotics to 72 percent of his patients. Based on this information and the fact deputies say that Dr. Johnson also facilitated his daughter's addiction to controlled narcotics, detectives began an investigation into Dr. Johnson knowingly overprescribing controlled narcotics.

In working on the case, deputies gave files to Dr. Gregory Scott in Lakeland for a professional opinion. According to Dr. Scott, "There is no explanation for the frequency and numbers of prescriptions written for several of the patients, and they are not written within the realm of normal dental practice."

On Wednesday, Dr. William Johnson was placed under arrest and booked into the Polk County Jail.

In two separate and unrelated undercover investigations, narcotics detectives arrested two Polk County pharmacists for Trafficking in Prescription Drugs. During one investigation, a Polk undercover detective took a prescription written for 30 Oxycontin pills, 60 mg each, to the Med Express Rx pharmacy located at 1717 Shepherd Road in Lakeland, deputies say. The prescription was written by a dentist in Lakeland who was working in cooperation with law enforcement.

Ashish Patel, 35, of Valrico was subsequently arrested after deputies say he negotiated with the detective and agreed to sell her 70 Oxycodone 30 mg pills for $1,000 cash.  

The sheriff says Patel gave the undercover detective 50 pills that day, and she paid him the $1,000. He told her to come back the next day for 20 more pills, the sheriff says, and when the female undercover detective returned the following day, Patel asked for $540 more and agreed to give her 10 additional pills. In all, the undercover detective paid Patel $1,540 for 80 pills.

Detectives placed Patel under arrest and charged him with one count Trafficking in Oxycodone, one count Sale of Oxycodone Within 1,000 Feet of a Child Care Facility, one count Possession of Oxycodone Within 1,000 Feet of a Child Care Facility, and one count Maintaining Structure for Trafficking.

In another investigation, a confidential informant told detectives that 36-year-old Kalpeshkumar Patel of Orlando, who is no relation to Ashish Patel, was selling pain pills without prescriptions. Patel is a pharmacist at The Apothecary Shop located at 437 South 11th Street in Lake Wales.

The sheriff told reporters the confidential informant agreed to introduce an undercover Polk detective to Patel as her brother. The detective and informant went into the pharmacy and told Patel the detective wanted to buy pain medication. Deputies say Patel asked the detective if he had a prescription, and the detective told him that he did not.    

The sheriff adds that Patel told the detective to "hold on" and then retreated to the rear of the pharmacy, coming back and handing the detective an orange pill bottle filled with 18 Hydrocodone pills, saying, "Here we go."  

Sources say he refused to take any money. Kalpeshkumar Patel was placed under arrest and charged with one count Trafficking in Hydrocodone.

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