A Florida man has admitted playing a key role in flooding Eastern Kentucky with hundreds of thousands of pain pills.
Joel A. Shumrak, 67, pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of conspiring to illegally distribute pain pills and conspiracy to launder money. He also pleaded guilty to a count under which he will forfeit millions of dollars to the government.
The plea deal calls for a sentence of 14 years. Shumrak is to be sentenced in August.
Shumrak owned a clinic in Fort Lauderdale called the Pain Center of Broward and another in north Georgia that authorities alleged were pill mills — operations in which doctors give prescriptions to drug addicts and dealers with little or no real physical examination, usually for cash.
Shumrak grossed $15 million from June 2008 to May 2012, stashing much of it in offshore tax havens, authorities said in court documents.
Carloads of people from Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and other states traveled to Shumrak's clinics to get prescriptions, then sold or abused the pills at home, police charged.
Shumrak admitted that in many cases, he and clinic employees were aware that a large-scale drug dealer was paying the costs for a load of people to travel to Florida or Georgia. Typically in that arrangement, the sponsor would get a portion of the pills generated by the trip and then sell them.
Shumrak said in his plea agreement that he knew most of his Kentucky customers did not have a medical problem that warranted giving them the types and amounts of pills doctors at his clinics approved.
Two doctors told authorities they thought Shumrak fired them for not writing enough prescriptions, according to a court record.
Shumrak's clinics were key sources of pills for drug operations in Eastern Kentucky, including a number centered in Clay County, according to court records.
"I'd call him a kingpin," said Frank Rapier, head of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
Six people charged with Shumrak have pleaded not guilty, including physicians Michael Stanley Johnston, Enrique A. Gonzalez-Pujol and George Pierce Jones III.
The others charged are Patricia A. Solomon, Catherine Nicole Russell and Carroll Lloyd Elliott.
Records show Shumrak's case was linked to others, including one in which one-time Manchester pharmacist Charles Terry Tenhet admitted filling thousands of prescriptions improperly.
Investigators identified cases in which people overdosed and died soon after filling prescriptions at Tenhet's Community Drug Pharmacy, according to court records.
Tenhet's case linked to cases in which drug dealers were accused of killing three people they thought had talked to police.