Pill Mill Doctors in Florida Sentenced to Prison

By Paul Gaita 04/30/14

Though Joseph Castronuovo and Cynthia Cadet were cleared of distributing controlled substances, they were convicted on money laundering charges.

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The Florida legal system struck a blow against the proliferation of medical professionals who improperly prescribe pain medication by sentencing two prominent doctors to prison terms on money laundering charges.

In 2013, Dr. Joseph Castronuovo, 75 and Dr. Cynthia Cadet, 43, were cleared by a federal court of conspiring to distribute controlled substances that contributed to the deaths of nine patients while working at clinics in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach. But on April 4, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra sentenced Castronuovo to 18 months in federal prison, while Cadet received a six-year, six-month sentence for receiving salaries from an operation they knew to be illegal.

The clinics were part of a multi-million dollar string of pain medication companies owned by brothers Christopher and Jeffrey George, who were each sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for operating pill mills – medical facilities where addicts could receive massive prescriptions of oxycodone and other painkillers and in turn, sell them to dealers operating throughout South Florida. The operation was lucrative to the point of absurdity, with piles of money stuffed into garbage cans and Castronuovo and Cadet each earning $160,000 and $1.5 million, respectively, for distributing more than 750,000 pills over the course of just a few months.

While handing down the sentences, Judge Marra stated that he was able to give the doctors the benefit of the doubt that they were unaware of the criminal nature of the George brothers’ facilities during their first few months of employment. But given the chaotic behavior going on at the clinics throughout their tenures – security camera footage showed staff verbally abusing patients and visitors to the clinic intravenously injecting drugs in the parking lots – it would have been “impossible not to have known that the people were drug addicts,” Marra concluded. Both Castronuovo, who suffers from several health issues, and Cadet are scheduled to surrender to prison authorities in June, while their lawyers have vowed to appeal the decisions.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has noted that more than 1,000 pain clinics are currently in operation in the state, but only 932 of these are registered. The state also suffers from one of the most lethal prescription drug problems in the country, with more than seven residents dying each day from painkiller-related causes.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.