TAMPA — Three people died because a Pinellas Park pain management doctor prescribed drugs they didn't need, while the doctor and his wife broke laws to hide proceeds of a conspiracy, a federal grand jury charges.
Dr. Edward Neil Feldman, 75, could face life in prison if convicted of illegally dispensing the drugs that killed them.
Court records identify the deceased only by their initials: R.G., J.M. and S.W.
Records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office show that overdose victims Ricky Gonzalez of Clearwater and Joey Mayes of Pinellas Park were both found with drugs prescribed by Feldman.
Gonzalez died Oct. 8, 2010, at age 42, and Mayes died March 18, 2010, at age 24. The prescription dates and the combinations of prescribed drugs are the same as those cited in the indictment.
In the three cases that led to charges, Feldman prescribed two or more drugs, including oxycodone, methadone and the anti-anxiety drugs alprazolam (marketed as Xanax) and diazepam (marketed as Valium), the government alleges.
Dr. Feldman's wife is also named in the indictment, which was filed Dec. 10 but kept sealed until Wednesday.
Kim Xuan Feldman, 65, faces five counts relating to drug conspiracy, money laundering and other illegal financial transactions, as does her husband. Only the doctor is charged in three counts tied to the deaths.
The Feldmans were arrested Tuesday. At a first appearance in U.S. District Court in Tampa, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shauna Hale asked Magistrate Judge Anthony Porcelli to keep them in custody, expressing concern they might flee, given their assets and the seriousness of the case.
Hale said investigators found evidence of $6 million in cash transactions since 2009 and only a fraction of that has been located.
Mrs. Feldman has a Canadian passport and children in Canada, according to court clerk notes from the hearing. The government has not located all suspected proceeds and some were transferred to bank accounts in Canada, the notes state.
Defense attorney Paul Sisco argued that Dr. Feldman is a man plagued by medical problems, including hepatitis-C, a bad heart and diabetes and won't likely run.
"They would have him before he got to the airport," Sisco said.
Dr. Feldman was released on a $100,000 signature bond and put on home detention. His wife was released on a $75,000 signature bond. Under terms of such bonds, common in federal court, defendants pay only if they fail to appear.
Both were required to wear monitoring devices and surrender their passports.
Porcelli further ordered Dr. Feldman to cease the practice of medicine, including prescribing controlled substances.
The U.S. Attorney's Office seeks, upon conviction, the forfeiture of the couple's $1 million home on Trilby Avenue in Tampa's Ballast Point neighborhood and the Feldman Orthopedic and Wellness Center at 6100 Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park, along with two investment accounts and three bank accounts.
Mrs. Feldman answered the residence phone when a reporter called Wednesday but declined to comment. Her husband was on another line with an attorney, who later did not return a call from the Times.
The arrest was not a first for Dr. Feldman, who achieved newspaper notoriety in 2002 after he was caught up in a Hillsborough Sheriff's Office investigation of an alleged teen sex-for-hire ring. He was among several professional men arrested, but the charge against him was dropped.
His Florida Department of Law Enforcement record shows no state arrests.
However, Dr. Feldman has a 2004 conviction in federal court for accepting kickbacks from an MRI clinic.
That case led to a sentence of three years probation, which was cut short at his request. For his crime, the Florida Board of Medicine suspended him for a year but allowed him to return after six months, state records show.
The Florida Department of Health, which oversees the board, did not respond to questions posed about Feldman late Wednesday, including whether new charges will lead to immediate action.
The recent case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. A spokeswoman could not provide further details.
Sgt. Adam Geissenberger of the Pinellas Park Police Department said Feldman's clinic drew cars with out-of-state license plates and caught the attention of local law enforcement even before a federal task force got involved.
Times news researcher John Martin and staff writer Katie Mettler contributed to this report. Contact Patty Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3382.