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DEA agents seize scrips, records from Fort Myers pharmacy

Shop is included in a statewide 'pill-mill' investigation; two of its owners are arrested.

Jun. 27, 2012
Operation 'Pill Street Blues' raids Sunset Pharmac...
Operation 'Pill Street Blues' raids Sunset Pharmac...: Sunset Pharmacy in Fort Myers is audited as part of the statewide Law enforcement operation "Pill Street Blues". Video by Brian Hirten
DEA officers investigate Wednesday at Sunset Pharmacy in Fort Myers. / Amanda Inscore/

Charged Wednesday

• Lewis Gabriel Stouffer, 32, of Coconut Creek
• Craig Louis Turturo, 32, of Boca Raton
• Bruce Paul Karlin, 63, of Delray Beach
• Courtland Burr Twyman, 38, of Deerfield Beach
• Jeffrey Clark Thompson, 32, of Pompano Beach
• Dale Andrew Gatlin, 59, of Jacksonville
• Jeffrey J. Reiter, 54, of Fort Pierce
• Dr. Bruce Jay Kammerman, 54, of Palm City
• Dr. Susan Helen Yandle, 48, of Jacksonville
• Dr. Fernando Valle, 58, of Orlando
• Dr. Roger Lee Gordon, 65, of Plantation
• Dr. Joseph Patrick Buffalino, 64, of Sarasota
• Dr. Sanjay Trivedi, 49, of St. Johns
• Dr. Michael Charles Bengala, 67, of Pompano Beach
All were arrested Wednesday except Karlin and Twyman, who were expected to surrender within 24 hours.


Records and drugs were seized from a Fort Myers pharmacy Wednesday as part of a statewide investigation into suspected “pill mills.”

Drug Enforcement Administration agents searched Sunset Pharmacy on Cleveland Avenue for several hours and collected information on the types and amounts of pain medications filled there. Sunset Pharmacy surrendered its DEA registration when agents asked. Pharmacies are not allowed to dispense medication without that registration, so agents also confiscated all prescription medication from the store.

“If a pharmacy is under investigation, an administration function is to take away its ability to prescribe if the situation and the evidence warrants it,” said Steve Genevish of the Tampa DEA.

In the case of Sunset Pharmacy, the action was warranted, he said.

Agents arrested two of the pharmacy’s three owners, who do not live in Fort Myers. The third is negotiating with an attorney. They were arrested for alleged offenses connected with a pain clinic they own outside of Fort Myers, not in connection with Sunset Pharmacy. It is too early to tell if any pharmacists at Sunset will be arrested, Genevish said.

The business will remain open, but Genevish did not rule out it possibly closing.

A pharmacist at Sunset Pharmacy did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

The DEA did similar searches at eight other locations, seven of which were pain clinics, around the state Wednesday. They charged 14 people — seven physicians and seven pain clinic owners — with offenses that include manslaughter, trafficking in a controlled substance, racketeering, money laundering and illegally prescribing a controlled substance. Of the 14 defendants, 12 were arrested Wednesday and the remaining two were expected to surrender within 24 hours, according to a DEA release.

Defendants Lewis Stouffer, 31, of Coconut Creek, and Craig Turturo, 32, of Boca Raton, were arrested in Charlotte County in November for allegedly putting up illegal signs to advertise their Fort Myers pain clinic. Both are firefighters with the Pompano Beach Fire Department.

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Agents also seized about $1.1 million from 59 bank accounts and executed 13 search warrants in jurisdictions including Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Sarasota and Miami.

The investigation is ongoing and there will be additional arrests, according to the release.

Dubbed Operation Pill Street Blues, the two-year operation that led to the arrests used judicial wire intercepts, informants and undercover visits to target overprescribing pain clinics in the state. The seven doctors charged prescribed undercover agents about 2,732 Oxycodone tablets without medical justification, according to a DEA release.

The Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and the Vero Beach Police Department also were involved in the operation.

At Sunset Pharmacy, an administrative inspection warrant was served to enable investigators to seize prescriptions, logs and ledgers of the pharmacy to determine the amount of drugs being dispensed and purchased by the business, Genevish said.

“We want to make sure pain medication is available for people who need it, and prevent the diversion of the pharmaceuticals,” he said.

Genevish said one of the red flags that prompted the DEA to target Sunset Pharmacy was that it was purchasing more prescription drugs in a nine-month period than neighboring pharmacies, and it exceeded yearly national and state purchase averages in just nine months.

He said the pharmacy purchased 145,000 Oxycodone tablets during a nine-month period, above the 12-month national average of 74,000, and 12-month Florida average of 112,000.

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