Feds: Physician Made $2 Million At Dallas ‘Pill Mill’ Clinic
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – According to a federal search warrant, the target of Tuesday’s raid at his southern Dallas medical clinic earned more than $2 million in the past year by issuing illegal narcotics prescriptions to any patient who had proper state identification.
In the warrant, filed by an IRS agent, Dr. Lee Roy McCurley is accused of operating Mid-City Clinic in a nearly clandestine storefront at 111 Ledbetter Pkwy. It lacked a sign and a website, the document says, but maintained lines of patients since it opened in Nov. 2010.
The document says McCurley’s clinic served operations known as “Pill Mills,” which employ recruiters who pay often-homeless participants to obtain narcotics prescriptions using flimsy complaints of back pain and guttural coughs.
The clinic frequently prescribed hydrocodone painkillers, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and promethazine/codeine cough syrup, which creates a dissociative, hypnotic intoxication when overused.
After acquisition, the drugs are often sold on the street, the document says.
“When all three are prescribed together, this is often indicative of illicit use and distribution,” the federal document reads.
McCurley also owns a Grand Prairie clinic in the 700 block of Westchester Parkway. This clinic appears much more legitimate: The location is featured on the doctor’s website and his name is emblazoned on its sign.
McCurley was never spotted at the Mid-City Clinic during surveillance, the affidavit says.
Federal agents first organized an undercover operation on April 27 of last year. According to the document, a detective posed as a homeless person at the Bridge homeless shelter at 1818 Corsicana near downtown.
While there, a man later identified as Robert Brown approached the detective about procuring a prescription. The detective reportedly told Brown he had two friends who were also interested and was told to go get them.
Brown drove the three to a nearby gas station and asked who had proper Texas ID. One detective was told to leave because he only had a paper license. The other two were driven to Mid-City Clinic, the document says.
Brown told the detectives to complain of back pain and a cough with yellow mucus.
The suspect added, “They know why we are here and don’t care because they are getting their $245.” Brown asked the detectives, “You know the illegal drug house? This is the legal dope house,” the affidavit says.
The undercover officers were ordered not to use phones inside because clinic employees would kick them out.
The two were sent to an exam room and given prescriptions, X-Ray cards and business cards for Mark’s Pharmacy, the document says. It does not say who was issuing the prescriptions.
Once back in the vehicle, the document says Brown called a man named “Black, the money man,” who was later identified as Tyrance Lewis. Brown drove the men to Mark’s Pharmacy in southwest Dallas and met with Lewis.
The document says Lewis escorted the detectives inside and got the prescriptions. Lewis then ordered the undercover officers to not give him “the dope in the open.”
Each detective got $40 for the buy, the affidavit says. The detectives did another undercover sting with similar results on Oct. 14, 2011.
On March 8, 2012, the affidavit says a confidential informant told investigators that Mid-City Clinic sees between 50 and 60 people a day and only accepts cash. Payments usually ranged between $165 and $200, but sometimes were as much as $280.
The clinic would’ve generated between $10,000 and $12,000 a day, if the reports are accurate.
According to the affidavit, the Pill Mill operations could sell a single hydrocodone for $4, Xanax for $2 to $4 a pill and bottles filled with four-to-six ounces of promethazine/codeine cough syrup for between $200 and $300 in Dallas.
The informant said a man named Tony would arrive at Mid-City Clinic each day between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. and retrieve money from the office secretary, who hid the cash in a drawer under the front desk.
Tony, later identified as Anthony Rolfe, would hop in his silver Mercedes or white Hummur and take the day’s money to McCurley at his Grand Prairie clinic, the affidavit alleges.
The physician would then take the money home overnight and deposit it in the bank the following morning.
“These cash deposits were structured in a way to avoid federal reporting requirements,” the affidavit says.
The affidavit estimates McCurley deposited $2 million solely in proceeds from the Mid-City Clinic in the past year.
“These structured cash deposits are believed to be the proceeds of the Pill Mill operation,” the document says. “No checks, credit cards or insurance payments have been deposited to that account.”
On Tuesday, IRS agents swarmed Mid-City Clinic and departed with computers and patient records dating back to Nov. 2010, when it opened. The IRS now has phone numbers addresses and listings of all the clinic’s patients, along with what they were prescribed, the affidavit says.
Mid-City Clinic was bustling as recently as April 23: An investigator observed more than 20 vehicles in the parking lot, “with numerous people moving back and forth between the vehicles and the clinic itself, consistent with the behavior of the undercover officers during their operations at the clinic.”
The unsealed arrest affidavit says McCurley, who’s been licensed to practice medicine in Texas for more than two decades, has been charged with manufacturing, dispensing or possessing a controlled substance; structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements; and money laundering.
Officials say others have been arrested, but decline to say whom.