Houston, Texas - A Houston physician and the owner of a pain management clinic were each sentenced to 420 months in prison Thursday for their roles in running a pill mill that provided tens of thousands of unlawful prescriptions for millions of doses of opioids and other controlled substances.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick of the Southern District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Houston Field Office made the announcement.
Gazelle Craig D.O., 42, and Shane Faithful, 49, both of Houston, Texas, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas. Craig and Faithful were convicted at trial in March 2018 of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances and three counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances. The defendants were charged in an indictment returned on July 6, 2017.
“Today’s sentences should serve as a stark warning to any medical professional considering exploiting the opioid crisis for profit: you will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will pay a steep price for abusing your prescription power for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “In the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in our country’s history, Gazelle Craig and Shane Faithful sold millions of opioids and endangered the safety of an untold number of Americans. We should all be proud of the hard work being done by DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad and the prosecutors in the Department of Justice’s Fraud Section.”
“Dr. Craig, along with clinic owner Shane Faithful, used their position of trust to illegally distribute over 2 million dosage units of hydrocodone into local communities across Houston,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Glaspy. “It is this kind of illegal distribution of prescription drugs that feed the opioid epidemic and destroys families. The sentencing of Dr. Craig and Mr. Faithful is a victory for our communities while at the same time making a nationwide statement that the DEA and DOJ will not tolerate this type of illegal activity.”
According to evidence presented at trial, from March 2015 through July 2017, Craig and Faithful ran Gulfton Community Health Center (Gulfton), which operated as an illegal pill mill. The evidence showed that Craig unlawfully wrote approximately 18,252 prescriptions for over 2.1 million dosage units of hydrocodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, and approximately 15,649 prescriptions for over 1.3 million dosage units of carisporodal, a Schedule IV controlled substance. The combination of hydrocodone and carisoprodol is a dangerous drug cocktail with no known medical benefit, the evidence showed.
Craig regularly issued unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances to more than 60 patients a day, the evidence showed. “Crew leaders” ferried numerous patients to Gulfton so that Craig could provide them with unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances. Faithful and Craig charged approximately $300 for each prescription and required payment in cash. The defendants divided each day’s cash proceeds, often in excess of $15,000, from the sale of the unlawful prescriptions.
This case was investigated by the DEA. Trial Attorneys Scott Armstrong and Devon Helfmeyer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in 12 cities across the country, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS Office of Inspector General, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.