Emergency Suspensions Served on a Pharmacist and a Pharmacy License
GDNA PRESS RELEASE – April 28, 2017
At approximately 11:00 a.m. this morning special agents from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, on behalf of the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy, served Summary Suspension Orders (Emergency Suspensions) on the pharmacist license of Rosemary E. Ofume and the pharmacy license of the Medicine Center, aka HealthMart Pharmacy. Both orders were served at the pharmacy location of 1634 Jonesboro Road, SE in Atlanta, GA 30315. As of today, the pharmacy has no license, meaning it is out of business and can no longer fill any prescriptions. Ms. Ofume lost her personal Georgia pharmacist license and can no longer practice pharmacy at any location.
These suspensions are a result of both respondents being found guilty March 24, 2017 in the United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division on 3 counts of knowingly and intentionally dispensing and aiding and abetting in the distribution and dispensing of controlled substances (i.e. hydrocodone, oxycodone) outside the course of medical practice and for other than legitimate medical purposes from the pharmacy. The pharmacy was also found guilty of one count of controlled substance conspiracy and one count of money laundering conspiracy regarding customers of the “pill mill” pain clinic across the street. They were also convicted of a drug trafficking conspiracy in connection with their operation of Medicine Center Pharmacy, in Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, her husband, Donatus Iriele a pharmacist whose license was previously revoked, was convicted separately of five counts of concealment of money laundering and laundering more than $10,000 of criminally derived property.
After these actions by the court, on April 12th, 2017 the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy found that both the pharmacy’s and pharmacist’s continued ability to practice pharmacy pose a threat to the public health, safety, and welfare and found that it was imperative that emergency action take place by order of these summary suspensions. The suspensions were served as quickly after the Board took action and the paperwork could be drafted.
The case against this pharmacist and pharmacy began in May 2009, when agents of the DEA, working with agents for the IRS, began investigating the AMARC pain clinic, located in Atlanta, Georgia, and nearby Medicine Center Pharmacy, after receiving information that the clinic and pharmacy were illegitimately prescribing and dispensing pain pills to drug addicts and drug dealers.
The investigation revealed that Godfrey Ilonzo financed and operated at least eight clinics in the metro Atlanta area under the “AMARC” name, including the Lakewood pain clinic and one in Tyrone, Georgia. Bona Ilonzo (Godfrey Ilonzo’s wife) served as the office manager at the Lakewood AMARC pain clinic. At various times, Dr. Nevorn Askari and Dr. William Richardson served as the primary doctors for the AMARC pain clinics. Rosemary Ofume and Donatus Iriele operated the Medicine Center Pharmacy across the street from one of the pain clinics. Both Godfrey and Bona Ilonzo, as well as Drs. Askari and Richardson, previously pleaded guilty to charges related to their conduct at the clinic.
Ofume and Iriele worked together with the Ilonzos and Drs. Askari and Richardson to facilitate the dispensing of Oxycodone pills and other opiates to addicts and distributors. After customers received prescriptions from Askari and Richardson for medically inappropriate and potentially lethal combinations of opiates and other controlled substances, clinic staff told customers to fill their prescriptions across the street at “Rosemary’s pharmacy” (Medicine Center Pharmacy operated by Ofume and Iriele). Many of those customers traveled to the AMARC clinics and Ofume/Iriele’s pharmacy from counties throughout Georgia and from other states (including Alabama and Ohio).
Customers waited for hours at the Lakewood AMARC pain clinic and paid cash to receive prescriptions for Oxycodone or Hydrocodone, Xanax, and Soma (the “holy trinity” for resale on the street) before purchasing the pills at high prices from Ofume and Iriele’s pharmacy. Employees at the AMARC clinics and Ofume and Iriele’s pharmacy received discounts and special treatment, including free office visits and reduced prices for pills dispensed at the pharmacy. Ofume lied to pharmaceutical distributors in order to procure astronomical quantities of Oxycodone and other prescription pain pills that were then dispensed to customers having obvious signs of addiction or drug diversion. Significantly, in 2009, Medicine Center Pharmacy purchased eleven times more Oxycodone than the average pharmacy in the state of Georgia.
During the course of the conspiracy, Ofume and Iriele generated more than $5.1 million dollars from unlawful prescriptions issued by doctors affiliated with the AMARC clinics (constituting more than 90% of the pharmacy’s revenue). Iriele used pharmacy proceeds to purchase three luxury vehicles for his and Ofume’s personal use. Iriele and Ofume also laundered pharmacy proceeds by purchasing vehicles in the United States for individuals in Nigeria while concealing that those customers then deposited local Nigerian currency into Iriele’s own Nigerian bank account.
Previously, in 2007, the Georgia Board of Pharmacy revoked Iriele’s pharmacy licensed (and temporarily suspended Ofume’s pharmacy license) after finding that Ofume and Iriele had failed to account for more than 600,000 controlled substances pills at their pharmacies and had dispensed controlled substances pursuant to more than 1,400 forged prescriptions.
Previously, Godfrey Ilonzo, 66, of Alpharetta, Georgia, and Bona Ilonzo, 54, of Alpharetta, Georgia, the husband-wife owners of the illegal pain clinic, and two doctors who worked at the clinic, pleaded guilty to federal drug and money laundering charges in connection with in the drug trafficking conspiracy.
Based on the convictions, Ofume and Iriele will be ordered to forfeit to the United States $16,767 in cash seized from the pharmacy, $133,892.74 in funds seized from the pharmacy’s bank account, a 2009 BMW X5, a 2008 Mercedes Benz ML550, a 2007 BMW X5, and Rosemary Ofume’s Georgia Pharmacist license. In addition, the government also intends to seek money judgments equal to the amount of proceeds defendants obtained from their illegal drug trafficking and the amount of money laundered.
The sentencings of Ofume and Iriele are scheduled for June 13, 2017, at 10:00 a.m., before U.S. District Court Judge Jones.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency.