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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dr. Paul Volkman and the Philip Eil Saga

A doctor who may well be the primary leader in the biggest case of mass murder in American history operated for years in Scioto County. It is impossible to determine the extent of the death and destruction this man caused because he openly operated his criminal enterprises under the guise of a caring M.D. in a trusted position. To say he was a drug dealer is a gross understatement of his greedy activities.

Dr. Paul Volkman, a Chicago doctor who dispensed more of the powerful painkiller oxycodone from 2003 to 2005 than any other physician in the country was sentenced in federal court to four life terms in 2012 for the overdose deaths of four patients.

Volkman made weekly trips from Chicago to three locations in Portsmouth in southern Ohio and one in Chillicothe in central Ohio before federal investigators shut down the operations in 2006. He was sentenced in federal court in Cincinnati. Volkman was also convicted of eight other distribution counts that prosecutors said resulted in fatal overdoses but didn't leave enough evidence to convict him of the deaths.

The indictment against Volkman said patients came from hundreds of miles away and were charged $125 to $200 in cash for visits to see a doctor. Prosecutors said Volkman rarely, if ever, counseled patients on alternate treatments for pain, such as physical therapy, surgery or addiction counseling.

The US Attorney's Office in southern Ohio said, "Evidence presented during the trial showed that Volkman prescribed and dispensed millions of dosages of various drugs including diazepam, hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam and carisoprodol."

(Andrew Welsh-Huggins. "Paul Volkman, Chicago Doctor, Gets 4 Life Terms In Drug Overdose Case." The Huffington Post. Chicago. February 14, 2012)
                                                                          

(Barry Leibowitz. "Chicago doctor Paul Volkman gets life sentence in deadly 'pill mill' case." 
CBS News. February 14, 2012)

Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of local journalist, Philip Eil, who has been stymied for more than three years in his effort to obtain access to thousands of pages of public evidence from the major prescription drug-dealing trial of Paul Volkman.

The lawsuit, against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), seeks a court order to release the documents, a declaration that the ACLU says the DEA has wrongfully withheld and redacted documents, and an award of attorney fees. Filing the suit were ACLU volunteer attorneys Neal McNamara and Jessica Jewell, from the law firm of Nixon Peabody.

The Portsmouth Daily Times reported Volkman attended college and medical school with Eil’s father, and, in 2009, Eil began conducting research and reporting for a book about the case.

After Volkman’s trial ended, Eil requested access to the trial evidence from the clerk of the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. This request was denied, as were Eil’s subsequent requests to the Ohio U.S. Attorney’s office, the U.S. District Court judge who presided over the case, and the clerk of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

According to Eil ...

“You can’t have a true democracy without a transparent court system, and this case represents an egregious failure of judicial transparency. The right to a public trial is a basic tenet of our society, and it’s scary to think that any trial in the United States, especially one of this magnitude, would be retroactively sealed off from public view, as this case has.”

 In response, Adam Wright, lead prosecutor in the case, told the Daily Times ...

“He (Volkman) took a position of trust, holding himself out as a doctor, but instead of treating patients based on their medical needs, he treated them like customers, trying to make a profit. So, unlike a common drug dealer, this is someone who holds himself out as a respected member of society.

"Instead, what he was doing was not better than a common drug dealer. So I think, for example in this case, because of the fact that he was a physician Mr. Volkman was able to distribute millions and millions of pills of oxycodone, the kind of conduct just someone on the street couldn’t achieve. He was doing more than any other physician in the country”

(Frank Lewis. "ACLU sues for Volkman trial info. Portsmouth Daily Times. March 18, 2015)

I don't know why the DEA has not released the Volkman documents to Eil so that he can finish his book. I do know that the agency told a Freedom of Information Act requester it would cost $1.4 million to process Eil's request.

It has been reported the DEA has withheld 87 percent of the 12,724 pages it has thus far processed for Eil’s FOIA request, and stripped most of the substantive information from the remaining 1,600 pages it has “released.” For example, as the lawsuit notes, one of the nine installments of releases to Eil included “a 133-page slide show where the substance from nearly every single slide is redacted.” In another one of the “partial releases” of information, the DEA withheld 1,225 of 1,232 pages it processed.

("ACLU Sues Drug Enforcement Agency For Public Records Local Journalist
Requested 3 Years Ago." aclu.org. March 18, 2015) 

I do know this. If information that has not been released contains material pertinent to the ring of pill mill conspirators who ravaged and continue to ravage the nation, then I hope the DEA uses the so-called "public evidence" to prosecute and convict every dirty criminal involved. If revealing all compromises their further investigations and activities, I hope secrets are kept "secret."

I also know some local medical professionals have not yet been convicted of crimes perpetrated in their Scioto County pill mills. We all understand the serious nature of these deadly acts, and we all know the doctors, pharmacists, and owners involved understood the nature of their crimes as they worked in the enterprises and made millions of dollars doing so.

I am not nearly as concerned about Philip Eil's rights to have access for his tell-all book and his desire to sell a story as I am about the DEA's actions to make these angels of death pay for their crimes. Nothing could be worse than having people sworn to save lives deliberately and willfully dump truckload after truckload of opiates on Southern Ohio just to satisfy their own greed. Make no mistake, this is not a story of mistaken judgment -- the criminal roots run deep and wide -- and, too much of the illegal opiate business still exists.

Places like Tennessee are reeling from pill mill criminals today (2015). This state even has a law called the Intractable Pain Treatment Act. The law gives patients the right to choose opiate drugs like Hydrocodone and Oxycodone if their pain has not responded to other forms of treatment.

The numbers of pill mills that have sprung up there are staggering: In Shelby County, with a population of about 1 million, there are 22 pill mills. In Sullivan County, with a population of only 150,000, there are 11 pill mills.

(Olivia Caridi. "Staubus: Tennessee law leads to ‘pill mills’ in Sullivan County."
WCYB. wcyb.com. February 23, 2015)

Just for one example of deadly operations, here is a story dated March 16, 2015, from WBIR NBC in Knoxville, Tennessee:

Knoxville police were called to the Red Roof Inn on Advantage Place Friday to investigate the discovery of two bodies in one of the rooms.

A KPD press release on Monday identified the victims as Robby Foster, 48, and Sherry Turner, 48, both of Petros. A preliminary autopsy determined the two died of an overdose, though the toxicology report is not back yet. There were no signs of foul play.

Federal investigators said Monday that Foster was one of the defendants in a large pill mill operation in Knoxville, and that the two overdosed on Oxycodone.

Foster was named with several others in a federal indictment alleging they conspired to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone and money laundering.

The suspected ringleader of the pill mill operation, Sylvia Hofstetter, was arrested last week and described by federal prosecutors as "the largest drug dealer to ever set foot in a courtroom in East Tennessee."

Authorities say she is responsible for the distribution of oxycodone in sufficient quantities to generate revenue of at least $17.5 million between April 2011 and March 2015. Latest reports say eight deaths have been tied to the pill mill conspiracy.

(WBIR Staff. "Pill mill defendant dies of overdose in Knoxville motel." TV-WBIR.
wbir.com. March 16, 2015)

This insanity must stop. Scioto County dealt with the likes of Dr. Volkman years ago. It continues elsewhere today. There are no words to describe the complete lack of humanity held by such wicked professionals. When a medical worker goes to "the dark side," men, women, boys, girls, and babies perish. In the case of pill mill operations, the countless murders initiated by doctors will continue until the ruthless, greedy perpetrators are arrested and put into jails.

Pill mill doctors, if not stopped, move from place to place to graze upon fresh victims to satisfy their blood lust. They are the worst mass murderers imaginable.

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