“The sentences handed down today are a culmination of the hard work of numerous agencies and speak to the effort of the men and women with boots on the ground,” said Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force Commander Capt. Mark Mayton in a press release Thursday. “This shows criminal prosecution was a success. To receive a conviction and sentencing is a testament to the job the men and women did making the case. This closure highlights the success interagency cooperation can produce. Nobody worked by the shape of their badge — they worked to solve a problem.”
According to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in a press release, the charges and other information presented in court: In May 2010, using information from the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, multiple agencies joined in an expanded investigation of Atlanta Medical Group, learning that the clinic, located on Collins Drive in Cartersville, was prescribing pain pills outside the bounds of legitimate medical practice.
During trial, the government offered evidence that Jason Cole Votrobek, 30, of Vero Beach, Fla., Roland Rafael Castellanos, 34, of Hollywood, Fla., and Jesse Violante, 35, of Vero Beach, Fla., financed and operated the clinic. Tara Atkins, 36, of Cartersville, served as the office manager. Dr. James Chapman, 64, of Macon, served as the primary doctor.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Vining Jr. sentenced Votrobek and Castellanos each to 15 years in federal prison.
In their respective capacities, Votrobek and Castellanos worked to procure and distribute Oxycodone pills to addicts and distributors and directed the clinic’s doctor to see as many patients as possible, and to prescribe as many Oxycodone pills as possible, in order to generate mass profits. Chapman allegedly did so, however, without conducting sufficient medical examinations and, indeed, was frequently incapacitated due to intoxication. Atkins herself filled out prescriptions for the doctor to sign, and the amounts of pills distributed to patients were excessive, and with unusual dosage patterns.
Evidence offered at trial established that the clinic was really a drug distribution operation with over 98 percent of their patients traveling to the clinic from surrounding states, the majority from Kentucky and Tennessee. Many of those visiting had obvious signs of being addicts. The clinic engaged in unusual practices, like permitting non-medical staff to assist with medical procedures such as taking blood pressure, to maximize the number of patients seen. Indeed, in 2011, the clinic was one of the top 15 purchasers of Oxycodone in the nation.
Votrobek and Castellanos made millions of dollars during the clinic’s approximately one year of operation. Votrobek and Castellanos established multiple bank accounts, many in third party names, to conceal the windfall profits.
Votrobek had previously been acquitted in Florida of similar charges stemming from his ownership of a Florida pain clinic.
Violante and Atkins, who both previously pleaded guilty to charges related to their conduct at the clinic, will be sentenced on a later date.
Chapman is presently awaiting trial.
“The abuse of pain medication has become epidemic and now accounts for six times more deaths than that of all of the traditional illegal drugs combined,” Yates said. “The defendants in this case preyed upon those addicted to prescription drugs in order to line their own pockets. The abuse of prescription drugs and its related criminal activity has become a danger in many of our communities — one we have made a central focus of our office. Today justice has been served.”
“This is a great illustration of the positive impact law enforcement has when local, state and federal agencies work together,” said Vernon Keenan, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “The increasing abuse of prescription drugs is a significant problem in Georgia that the GBI will continue to address with our local and federal partners.”
Harry S. Sommers, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division, said, “Pain clinics prey on so-called patients who are addicted to opiates. Some of the doctors who dispense these addictive analgesics often operate under the guise of a stethoscope and a white coat, when in actuality they are nothing more than drug traffickers. This successful investigation was a direct result of hard work put forth by all law enforcement agencies involved.”
“IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to contribute our financial expertise in an effort to halt the illegal sale and distribution of prescription drugs,” said Special Agent in Charge Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot. “We are committed to ‘following the money trail’ to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice.”
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Diversion Group, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, with special assistance from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Kentucky State Police.
Assistant United States Attorneys G. Scott Hulsey, Cassandra J. Schansman, and Laurel R. Boatright prosecuted the case.