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Five charged with distributing narcotics through Tampa pain clinics and pharmacy

TAMPA — Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment Wednesday charging five people, including a pharmacist, with an elaborate conspiracy to illegally distribute narcotics through local pain clinics and a pharmacy.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided the Tampa Bay Wellness Centre, Superior Injury Center and VIP Pharmacy, all on W Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, on May 20 following complaints from neighboring businesses, pharmacies, patients' families and a former employee of the Wellness Centre, Dr. Ronald Heromin.

Heromin complained someone had forged some of his prescriptions to give high dosages of oxycodone and other narcotics to patients. He told the St. Petersburg Times in May that he quit the clinic and reported fraud to the DEA to protect his license.

The owners of the two clinics — Louis Fernandez Jr, 65, Louis Fernandez III, 39, and Marco Beltran, 40 — are accused of illegally dispensing drugs by using the DEA registration number of a doctor without his permission and forging his signature, providing patients with false documentation to support narcotic prescriptions, allowing someone unlicensed to dispense drugs and not requiring a prescription for drug dispensation.

Neighbors said the Tampa Bay Wellness Centre sometimes operated well into the night and gave out prescriptions for 300 oxycodone pills at a time.

Prosecutors said Christopher Switlyk, 32, a pharmacist and owner of VIP Pharmacy, knowingly filled the fraudulent prescriptions. A pharmacy employee, Kimberly Curtiss, 23, was also indicted.

Switlyk was also charged with conspiring to launder money with Beltran, who was also a pharmacy employee.

Switlyk and Beltran used five cashier's checks in April totaling $169,000 to pay for a house on W Swann Avenue, and spent $20,000 on a 2007 Lincoln MKX sport utility vehicle, according to the indictment.

Nearly $6 million, a house, the SUV and a Rolex will be forfeited if the group is convicted.

Each of the defendants, all of whom are from Tampa, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy charge. Beltran and Switlyk face an additional 20 years for the conspiracy to launder money indictment.

Five charged with distributing narcotics through Tampa pain clinics and pharmacy 12/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 11:22pm]
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