American Justice Notebook

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Federal Judge Closes Down Clinic, Orders Physician and Clinic Owners to Pay $600,000 for Alleged Unlawful Opioid Distribution

A federal court ordered a Tampa-area pain management clinic to close and directed the clinic’s owners and its former physician to collectively pay $600,000 in civil penalties

The closure and penalties were agreed on resolutions in a case alleging violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Justice Department announced Wednesday, according to officials.

In a complaint filed in February 2021, the United States alleged that Dr. Tobias Bacaner wrote prescriptions for opioids without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice while employed at Paragon Community Healthcare, a pain clinic in New Port Richey, Florida.

The complaint alleged that Paragon’s owners, Theodore Ferguson II and Timothy Ferguson, managed the clinic’s operations and profited from the unlawful prescribing while ignoring obvious signs of drug abuse and diversion.

The complaint further alleged that Dr. Bacaner and the Fergusons used their jointly owned pharmacy, Cobalt Pharmacy, to unlawfully fill prescriptions issued at Paragon without scrutiny.

The order against Dr. Bacaner requires him to pay $500,000 in civil penalties and prohibits him from prescribing, administering, dispensing or distributing controlled substances, among other restrictions.

The order against the Fergusons and Paragon requires them to jointly pay $100,000 in civil penalties.

The order also requires Paragon to permanently close, and places restrictions on the Fergusons’ ability to own or work at entities that administer, dispense or distribute controlled substances in the future.

The defendants also agreed to permanently dissolve Cobalt Pharmacy, which closed shortly before the government filed suit.

“Physicians who prescribe opioids without a legitimate medical purpose and outside of the usual course of professional practice and others who facilitate that conduct will be held accountable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. 

U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington entered the consent decree in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

The investigation was conducted by the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad in the Tampa District Office.

The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay S. Griffin and Trial Attorneys Scott Dahlquist and Tom Rosso of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch.