Three Michigan Doctors Ran $5.7 Million Painkiller Trafficking Ring

By Paul Gaita 03/16/16

The doctors, in cahoots with crooked pharmacists and patient recruiters, put over 1 million painkillers on the streets.  

Three Michigan Doctors Ran $5.7 Million Painkiller Trafficking Ring
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The federal government has indicted a trio of doctors in Michigan for operating a large-scale prescription drug trafficking operation for more than two years.

Criminal investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service joined U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade on March 9 to announce that charges of conspiracy to illegally distribute prescription drugs were filed against Dr. Boris Zigmond, Dr. Jennifer Franklin and Dr. Carlos Godoy. Seven other co-defendants, all Michigan residents, were also named in the indictment.

The government alleges that between January 2013 and May 2015, Zigmond oversaw a trafficking operation that distributed approximately 1 million pills—primarily Roxicodone and its generic equivalent, oxycodone—and grossed more than $5 million through sales on the black market. Zigmond, who was a chiropractor, reportedly did not see any patients or write any prescriptions for the medication, but rather used co-defendants Rodney Knight, Tara Jackson and Sashanti Morris to recruit both addicts and dealers who posed as patients seeking painkillers. These were then sent to Franklin and Godoy in office suites in Oak Park, Mich. that were owned by Zigmond. 

The “patients” paid between $500 to $600 to obtain a prescription, which was filtered through Zigmond to Franklin, Godoy and four others individuals—Anna Fradlis, Marina Jacobs, Maryna Pitsenko and Svetlana Sribna—who scheduled the appointments in the offices. Zigmond was arrested at his wife’s condominium in Hollywood, Fla. in 2015. He was transported back to Detroit to face the aforementioned charges. In addition to the conspiracy charge, Zigmond is also facing charges of money laundering, while Knight was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

The indictment came on the heels of a report that shows a 14% rise in drug overdose deaths in Michigan, primarily from heroin and opioids. At the March 9 announcement, McQuade drew a direct correlation between illegal prescription drug sales and the rise in overdose fatalities. "Diversion of prescription pills to the street market promotes the addiction to painkillers that leads to overdose deaths," she said. "We are focusing on charging doctors, pharmacists and the networks that are putting this poison on the streets."

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