DALLAS — A licensed pharmacist, who along with four co-defendants was convicted at trial earlier this year for their roles in a “pill mill” operation in Dallas, was sentenced this afternoon, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Lisa L. Hollier, 44, of Sunnyvale, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Barbara M. G Lynn to 60 months in federal prison. She has been in custody since her conviction in February 2014.
Hollier owned and operated Urban Independent Pharmacy (UIP), located at 6300 Samuell Blvd., in Dallas. The jury convicted Hollier on one count of conspiracy to distribute, unlawfully, a controlled substance.
The four co-defendants who were convicted at trial on the same offense, Dallas residents Joesephis Austin, 60, Patricia A. Bryant, 59, and Walter R. Hudspeth, 62, along with Flower Mound, Texas, resident, Jose L. Martinez, 54, are scheduled to be sentenced onSeptember 17, 2014. Each faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine.
Twelve other defendants charged in the case have pleaded guilty to their respective roles, and they have received sentences ranging from probation to 72 months in federal prison. Fourteen “dealers” were indicted and convicted in the case.
Defendants Austin, Bryant and Hudspeth operated as dealers who recruited “patients,” often from homeless shelters, and drove them in groups to Padron Wellness Clinic (PWC), located at 1000 Emerald Isle Drive in Dallas. Co-conspirators physician Nicolas Alfonso Padron, 54, of Garland, Texas, and Martinez opened PWC in the fall of 2010. PWC operated not as a legitimate medical facility, but as a place to unlawfully obtain controlled substances, such as hydrocodone.
Dr. Padron and Martinez, the PWC’s business manager, charged cash only for office visits in which Dr. Padron would do little to no physical examination and prescribe a “cocktail” of controlled substances, including hydrocodone, a Schedule II controlled substance and alprazolam, a Schedule IV controlled substance. Generally, they charged $250 for a new patient office visit and $185 for an established patient visit.
Typically, the dealers set appointments on PWC’s schedule and brought in multiple patients at a time. The dealers escorted the patients into the clinic, coordinated with Martinez and paid cash for the patients they brought. Dr. Padron would sometimes see two or more patients at a time in one exam room. Patient visits were short in duration and patients normally left with a 30-day prescription of 120 pills of hydrocodone and 30-90 units of alprazolam. Most of the patients were diagnosed by Dr. Padron with lower back pain and anxiety, without regard of their true condition; thus these prescriptions were medically unnecessary and outside the scope of professional practice.
Dr. Padron, who pleaded guilty in September 2013 to his role in this conspiracy and testified at trial, is also scheduled to be sentenced on September 17, 2014. He, too, faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine on this conviction.
Hollier and Dr. Padron coordinated a procedure for PWC’s staff to fax prescriptions for the controlled substances to UIP. Once Dr. Padron issued the prescriptions, these dealers would drive the patients to UIP to get the prescription filled. Typically, they did this in groups and Hollier had large amounts of hydrocodone and alprazolam in pre-filled bottles ready each day to handle the large groups of dealers and their patients. These dealers furnished the money to pay for the narcotics. Sometimes they paid Hollier directly for the prescriptions. After Hollier filled the prescriptions, the patients would give the dealers the pills that they would sell on the street for a profit.
In a separate and unrelated case, Dr. Padron pleaded guilty in September 2013 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud stemming from his role as medical director of A Medical House Calls, a physician house-call company. Dr. Padron was sentenced in March 2014 to 57 months in federal prison, and he was ordered to pay nearly $9.5 million in restitution to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The Dallas Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) Strike Force, which includes the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and the FBI investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kate Pfeifle and J. Nicholas Bunch are prosecuting.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 1,900 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for almost $6 billion. In addition, HHS’s CMS, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the HEAT Strike Force, see: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov