TIMONIUM, Md. - Two suspects arrested in a bust of a suspected pill mill in Timonium appeared before a Baltimore County Circuit court Judge on Thursday.
Gerald Wiseburg, 78, & Michael Reznikov, 51, face charges of conspiracy to distribute Schedule II narcotics. A judge set bail at $50,000 cash and required them to surrender their passports.
Federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration were at the Beltway Professional Building Wednesday as management changed the locks on Suite 101.
The closing comes after local police and DEA agents raided the Healthy Life Medical Group on York Road in Timonium. Assistant Special Agent in Charge Carl Kotowski says the bust came one year into their investigation, "We've known since last April that there was an issue at this location and we had to do it right."
Kotowski says his agency, in cooperation with Baltimore County police, served search warrants on the suspected pill mill. According to affidavits filed to get the warrants, the clinic had been seeing an average of 80 patients a day, with some days seeing as many as 142 patients appearing.
Those records show patients were asked to pay as much as $350 in cash for the visit, which included little examination and provided them with dangerous narcotics like Xanax and Oxycodone. Kotowski says, "Oxycodone was the big thing and that's really why the people were coming out, for the Oxy because they know they can make money off the oxy. Oxy's a big thing."
The drug is such a moneymaker the feds say people from as far as Florida came to Healthy Life to get a prescription. We saw it for ourselves as part of an ABC2 News Investigation, as we staked out the clinic for months, watching with a hidden camera as cars from all over the country came in.
On Wednesday though, patients were turned away. Walbrecher noticed, "They waited around for a bit, all on their cell phones. I guess they finally got the hint."
And so did the operators of Healthy Life. The affidavit points to three people as operators, Alina Margulis, Reznikov and Wiseburg. None of them are physicians according to the records.
The affidavit says Margulis and Reznikov are believed to be husband and wife. As for Wiseberg, the documents indicate he ran a pain management clinic in Florida and recruited his patients to come to Maryland after it was shut down.
Investigators were initially tipped to the clinic by local pharmacists, concerned about a high volume of prescriptions written by Healthy Life for out of state patients. Kotowski says, "We were getting feedback, ‘Hey how come I'm filling so many prescriptions from Oxycodone for individuals that don't live in the state of Maryland and these scripts all are written by Healthy Life."
According to the affidavits, patients were able to get those prescriptions after going to a local MRI clinic and securing images. The documents say, "The MRI Center produces false readings and findings of the patients' chief complaints/condition". Informants state these images would protect the clinic from charges of malpractice.
But that's not all informants learned. As part of the investigation, informants obtained information from physicians who worked at Healthy Life, at its original location in Reisterstown. Dr. William Crittenden, according to the documents, told an informant, the clinic made more than $1,000,000 during the four months he worked there. And he admitted, "He often wrote opioid medication for patients that had no medical reason for obtaining the drugs, but he had to keep the customers happy".
Crittenden worked for Healthy Life before their move to Timonium. Their original location on Reisterstown Road was where the investigation began. And for people who live in the neighborhood, Healthy Life was not the best neighbor. Susan Allen, who lives across the street from the Reisterstown location says, "I never called the police in my entire life. Now 79 times in five months."
After having people from out-of-state sleep on her lawn, drop trash in the street and show up hours before opening, Allen couldn't take any more. She worked with the landlord of the building to get the clinic evicted. Records show Healthy Life then moved to its' current location in Timonium around Thanksgiving 2011.
Doctor Bonnie Culbertson, a dentist in the building where Healthy Life Medical Group turned up, knew something was off immediately. She says, "I knew exactly what it was, so I went down there within an hour."
Culbertson called the cops after confronting the head of Healthy Life, questioning whether his business was even legal. She says, "You have to take a stand if you're going to be part of the community."