ATLANTA—A pain clinic owner, an office manager who was the wife of the owner, and two doctors have been indicted for the illegal sale and distribution of pain killers to addicts and drug dealers at three AMARC pain clinics in metropolitan Atlanta. Godfrey Ilonzo, 63, of Alpharetta, Georgia; Bona Ilonzo, 51, of Alpharetta, Georgia; Dr. Nevorn Askari, 57, of Monroe, Georgia; and Dr. William Richardson, 59, of Atlanta, Georgia, were indicted and arrested on federal drug and money laundering charges for their respective roles in operating so-called “pill mill” pain clinics. Godfrey Ilonzo was also indicted individually on charges relating to federal bankruptcy fraud. The defendants were arraigned today at 2 p.m., before United States Magistrate Judge Janet F. King. The federal grand jury indicted the defendants on January 8, 2013.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “The abuse of pain medication has become epidemic and now accounts for more deaths than all traditional illegal drugs combined. The defendants in this case are charged with preying on drug addicts, feeding their addictions in order to make a profit. Prosecuting those who perpetrate prescription drug abuse is one of the critical missions of this office, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute other pill mills in this district.”
Harry S. Sommers, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division said, “DEA and its law enforcement counterparts will continue to target and crack down on unscrupulous pain clinics. Today’s arrests have dismantled this criminal enterprise, which was responsible for the illegal distribution of dangerous doses of oxycodone and other controlled substances. The success of this investigation is a direct result of the hard work and dedication put forth by our federal, state, and local law enforcement counterparts.”
“IRS-Criminal Investigation is proud to contribute our financial expertise in an effort to halt the illegal sale and distribution of prescription drugs,” stated Special Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot. “We are committed to unraveling financial transactions and money laundering schemes where individuals attempt to conceal the true source of their money.”
Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “This case necessitated the expertise of several federal law enforcement agencies due to the various criminal charges alleged. The FBI will continue to work with its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners in bringing such investigations forward for prosecution.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: In 2009, agents of the Tactical Diversion Squad of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) learned that physicians at an AMARC clinic, located at 1755 Lakewood Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia, prescribed pain pills outside the bounds of legitimate medical practice. Subsequently, DEA, working with IRS, FBI, and officers from other state and local agencies, learned that Godfrey Ilonzo has financed and operated multiple pain clinics in the Atlanta area under the “AMARC” name, including the Lakewood Avenue clinic and two other clinics located at 1135 Senoia Road, Tyrone, Georgia, and 207 Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia. Bona Ilonzo (Godfrey Ilonzo’s wife) served as the office manager at the main AMARC pain clinic at Lakewood Avenue. At various times, Askari and Richardson served as the primary doctors for the AMARC pain clinics.
The indictment charges that, in their respective capacities, the defendants worked together to facilitate the prescribing of oxycodone pills and other controlled substances to addicts and distributors. The clinics generated mass profits by charging patients cash for appointments during which Askari and Richardson issued prescriptions for controlled substances for medically inappropriate and potentially lethal dosages and combinations. Askari and Richardson allegedly did so, however, without conducting adequate medical examinations. The indictment also alleges that, after an initial in-person appointment, Askari repeatedly “pre-signed” additional prescriptions for the same amounts and types of controlled substances for patients without ever seeing the patients again in-person. Askari did so, however, while falsely indicating in the patient’s file that she had conducted an in-person examination of the patient.
The indictment alleges that the AMARC pain clinics constituted a drug distribution operation with very high volumes of patients, many of whom visited the clinics in groups from other counties in Georgia and surrounding states. Many of those visiting had apparent signs of being addicts or drug dealers. The defendants allegedly made millions of dollars during the operation of the AMARC pain clinics, which they used to recruit additional physicians and patients to the AMARC pain clinics and to open additional clinics under the AMARC name. The indictment also seeks to forfeit the professional medical licenses that Askari and Richardson used to further the illegal prescribing at the AMARC pain clinics.
The charges each carry a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.