Crime

Court records: Pain clinic operator distributed more than 1 million pills in southeastern Kentucky

A man who operated pain clinics in South Florida and Georgia took part in distributing more than 1 million pills in southeastern Kentucky before authorities shut down the offices, according to a federal indictment and other court records.

A new indictment in the case against Joel A. Shumrak was unsealed Thursday.

A federal grand jury charged that Shumrak and Michael S. Johnston, a doctor who worked at the Georgia clinic for a time, conspired to distribute pain pills and Xanax in Clay County from June 2008 to May 2014.

Shumrak also is charged with money laundering. Some charges in the indictment carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Both men had been indicted earlier and have pleaded not guilty.

The new indictment apparently added more defendants, but the names were blacked out on the document filed publicly.

Shumrak allegedly amassed $15 million through the drug conspiracy and took steps to hide it through offshore tax havens, according to court records.

Authorities have seized scores of bank and insurance accounts in Shumrak's name that held millions of dollars, records show.

In addition to prison time, prosecutors are seeking a judgment of $15 million against defendants in the case.

Shumrak and Johnston were allegedly part of a conspiracy in which people from Kentucky went to clinics in Florida and Georgia to get prescriptions without having to undergo real examinations — an example of the interstate pill pipeline that has fueled drug abuse in the state for several years.

The trend took root when Kentucky had a top prescription-monitoring system but Florida and Georgia did not. People began going to clinics outside Kentucky to evade that oversight.

Drug dealers in Eastern Kentucky have sponsored trips to other states by addicts, paying the cost of traveling and going to doctors and then splitting the pills with the drug runners.

The case against Shumrak and Johnston is related to one against former Manchester pharmacist Terry Tenhet, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to distribute pain pills.

Tenhet owned Community Drug Pharmacy, which addicts and traffickers used to fill prescriptions they'd gotten in other states, according to court records.

Investigators identified cases in which people overdosed and died soon after filling prescriptions at Community Drug, according to court records.

Tenhet developed a practice of filling out-of-state prescriptions on a cash-only basis and raised his prices as other local pharmacies refused to fill such orders because they were suspect, court documents said.

Tenhet is serving a 10-year sentence and also forfeited property worth $3 million.

  Comments