The George Brothers and the Rise of the Florida Pill Mill
By August 25, 2011, the George twins, Chris and Jeff, had amassed $40 million in cash – and probably more (it’s believed that they were able to hide their total earnings – perhaps in Belize – before authorities finally took them down), high-end cars, mansions, oh, and the deaths of 56 people who had overdosed on the powerful painkillers that they had been in the business of doling out, hand over fist. All of this in the course of two years.
How It All Started
The Georges got the idea of going into the pain clinic business from a fellow criminal and mentor known as “the Candy Man.” Back in 2007, it was this unnamed physician who told the twins, two bad-boy rich kids that, to make a fortune, they should open a pain clinic.
“The Candy Man,” nicknamed by authorities for his large volume of pill prescriptions, is responsible for launching the brothers, 27 at the time, to the top of a pill mill empire that raked in $40 million in two years in Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to officials.
The Wellington entrepreneurs formulated what was to become their bread-and-butter formula that also quickly inspired others to follow suit. Their pill mill blueprint that others copied would turn South Florida into ground zero of the narcotic prescription drugs black market, prosecutors said.
The Georges insisted on accepting cash and credit only in order to avoid state regulation of clinics that accept insurance. They catered to drug dealers from Kentucky and other states with high rates of painkiller abuse. Their customers could walk away with hundreds of pills a month. And they paid their doctors on staff for each patient seen as a way to motivate them; the doctors spent no more than a few minutes with each customer before writing prescriptions.
The George brothers also “kept it in the family” – hiring only friends and family when it came to staffing their pain clinics. As for the doctors? They were hired through Craig’s List ads.
Chris George was secretly recorded telling one of his managers that he had hired Jupiter physician Augusto Lizarazo, 70, despite his heavy accent and lack of experience with prescribing pain pills.
“You know what, people don’t care as long as he’s writing the scripts,” Chris George said.
Fraud Goes Deeper
Officials said that the Georges were careful to control the operation from top to bottom. For example they set up one of their steroid telemarketers in a mobile MRI business that operated behind a strip club. That aspect of the operation netted $2 million.
They expanded their business model to control how and where the prescriptions their doctors were writing. Chris George financed two of their clinic staffers to start pharmacies in Boca Raton and Orlando to disguise the volume of pills being sold. The sale of the pain pills also financed two phony time-share companies that swindled another $4.7 million from their victims.
The George Brothers: Thug Businessmen
For one thing, they threatened the operators of other pain management clinics. They also ordered their staffers to vandalize the buildings and cars of their competitors and others who opposed them.
Once, the thug twins and their aides kidnapped and handcuffed a man whom they believed had stolen $50,000 from them. The man was thrown to the ground and Jeff George fired a bullet next to his head to intimidate him.
What It Translated To
“They were swimming in money. Obscene.” said one federal official.
By the time police and federal agents shut down their four clinics in March 2010, the brothers had sold 20 million pain pills.
Each of their four clinics made up to $50,000 a day. Their employees carried the receipts to the bank in garbage bags. Their mother – who worked for and was arrested with her sons – kept about $4.5 million of their spare cash in two safes in the attic of her house.
And while desperate opiate addicts were scraping together money to buy their scripts, the George brothers enjoyed six-bedroom houses, four-figure Rolex watches, a shopping plaza, high-end boats and fast cars.
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