A doctor at a South Florida clinic fed Eastern Kentucky's debilitating drug problem by improperly giving residents prescriptions for tens of thousands of pills, according to federal charges.
When police searched the office of Michael R. Shook, they found 1,400 patient files, most of them for people from Eastern Kentucky, according to a sworn statement filed in court.
Officers from the FBI and Kentucky State Police arrested Shook at his home in Boca Raton Monday on a charge of being involved in drug trafficking. Police announced the arrest Wednesday.
Shook, 51, is the second South Florida doctor to face federal charges in Eastern Kentucky as authorities try to cut off a pill pipeline from Florida to Appalachia.
The case points up what police say has been a growing problem the past few years: Kentuckians going to doctors in other states to get prescriptions for pain pills and other narcotics, then abusing and selling the drugs at home.
"This is a huge problem," said David Keller, director of the Kentucky section of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federally funded task force. "It's gotten worse."
Some of the 500-plus people arrested last October in Kentucky's largest-ever drug roundup had been to Shook's office.
Drug dealers and addicts leave the state to avoid scrutiny by police and Kentucky's prescription-drug monitoring system. Kentucky residents have gone to a number of states seeking pills, but South Florida has been a key destination because it has scores of pain clinics and no prescription-monitoring system.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says the top 50 prescribers of the pain drug oxycodone are in South Florida, and the number of pain clinics in the state more than doubled, to 160, by mid-2009, according to information from the Appalachia HIDTA.
Shook was allegedly one of the key sources of drugs for the interstate pipeline, but authorities are investigating a number of other clinics, Keller said.
"They got on our radar because of their volume," he said.
An HIDTA task force, led by the FBI and working with other agencies, did the investigation of Shook. James R. Hunter, a state police detective on the task force, filed the complaint against Shook in federal court in Pikeville.
Hunter said in a sworn statement that many people from the Floyd County and Johnson County area went to Shook at the Lauderhill Medical Clinic in Oakland Park, Fla., to get prescriptions.
Witnesses said Shook did little or no examination before giving them prescriptions for hundreds of pills, according to Hunter's statement.
One witness, Cheryl Lackey, said Shook only touched her back before writing her a prescription for a total of more than 400 pills, according to Hunter's affidavit.
Lackey said she went to Florida in a van with five others from Eastern Kentucky.
Another witness, who was not named, said Shook had a prescription filled out for him before he got into the exam room, Hunter said in his statement.
When he stopped in the waiting area to pay for the pills at the in-house pharmacy, Shook came out and said he'd forgotten to touch the man's back. Shook did so in the waiting area and went back inside, the witness told Hunter.
Cheryl Lackey's daughter, Terri L. Lackey, said that her first visit to Shook was in May 2008, when she was four months pregnant. Shook asked about her pain, felt her neck and back, and then gave her a prescription for 720 pills, according to the affidavit.
Lackey and her mother allegedly were part of a drug ring in which James Marsillet II paid for people — many of them drug addicts — to travel to Florida, see doctors and fill prescriptions.
The couriers got part of the pills and Marsillet and others sold the rest in Eastern Kentucky, according to federal charges and Hunter's affidavit.
Witnesses said they paid $250 in cash for a visit to Shook's office. Some also filled their prescriptions at the clinic pharmacy.
One witness, for instance, said he paid $1,340 for a total of 570 Roxicet, methadone and Xanax pills, according to Hunter's statement.
Shook cautioned people not to fill prescriptions at "big name" pharmacies and had some use Florida addresses, Hunter said in his affidavit.
Keller said the case also points up the need for a national prescription-monitoring system to curtail such pill pipelines.
Some states don't have such systems, and programs in many states that do aren't linked or don't operate the same way, Keller said.
"We need to enact a national monitoring system yesterday," he said.