Two defendants in a 2011 pill mill bust in Bartow County have been convicted of their crimes.
Jason Cole Votrobek and Roland Rafael Castellanos were convicted in a month-long jury trial on federal drug and money laundering charges for owning and operating what's been described as a "pill mill" pain clinic in Bartow County.
The Bartow mill served as a front for "mass distribution of addictive pain killers," the United States Attorney's Office said in a press release.
Votrobek originally was acquitted in Florida of similar charges stemming from his ownership of a Florida pain clinic.
“The abuse of pain medication has become epidemic and now accounts for more six times more deaths than that of all of the traditional illegal drugs combined,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “The defendants in this case preyed upon on those addicted to prescription drugs in order to line their own pockets. The abuse of prescription drugs and its related criminal activity has become a danger in many of our communities - one we have made a central focus of our office. Today justice has been served.”
Votrobek and Castellanos will be sentenced at a later date. Fellow defendants Jesse Violante and Tara Atkins previously pleaded guilty to charges related to their conduct at the clinic and will also be sentenced at a later date. Dr. James Chapman is currently awaiting trial.
The investigation started in May 2010 when, using information received from the Bartow/Cartersville Drug Task Force, multiple agencies joined in an expanded investigation of Atlanta Medical Group after learning the Cartersvile-based clinic was "prescribing pain pills outside the bounds of legitimate medical practice," the news release said.
Investigators uncovered Votrobek, 30, of Vero Beach, Fla., Castellanos, 34, of Hollywood, Fla., and Violante, 35, of Vero Beach, Fla., financed and operated the clinic. Atkins, 36, of Cartersville served as the office manager and Dr. Chapman, 64, of Macon served as the primary doctor at the facility.
In their respective capacities, Votrobek and Castellanos "worked to procure and distribute Oxycodone pills to addicts and distributors and directed the clinic’s doctor to see as many patients as possible, and to prescribe as many Oxycodone pills as possible, in order to generate mass profits."
Dr. Chapman allegedly prescribed the medication without conducting sufficient examinations and was "frequently incapacitated due to intoxication," the U.S. Attorney's Office alleges.
In her role, Atkins also filled out prescriptions for the doctor to sign, and the amounts of pills distributed to patients were excessive, and with unusual dosage patterns.
The U.S. Attorney's Office states the clinic was a drug-operation ring that had over 98 percent of their patients, many of which had "obvious signs" of addictions, traveling from surrounding states such as Kentucky and Tennessee.
The clinic also allowed non-medical staff to help with medical procedures to maximize the number of patients they could see.
In 2011, the clinic was named one of the Top 15 purchasers of Oxycodone in the nation.
Votrobek and Castellanos made millions of dollars during the clinic's approximately one year of operation, and established multiple bank accounts, many in third party names, to conceal the windfall profits, according to evidence.
Vernon Keenan, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said his agency is "very pleased" with the efforts that resulted in the conviction of the defendants.
“Georgia citizens who served on the federal jury in this case sent a clear message that operating pill mills and the illicit diversion of controlled substances will not be tolerated in our state,"he said.
Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force Commander Captain Mark Mayton also praised the guilty verdicts.
“This was an important case for our local community as well as the prosecution of future 'pill mill' cases," he added. "The hard work put into this case by all the agencies involved was apparent by the swift guilty verdict. Prescription diversion is a rapidly growing problem and hopefully this will serve as a strong message to those individuals who choose to exploit other who suffer addiction for their financial gain. We are grateful to the United States Attorney’s Office who believed in our case and support our efforts to keep our community safe.”