Doctors indicted in oxycodone pill mill deaths

Protesters fighting pill mills were shown in a 2011 Business Journal article that documented the scope of the problem.

One doctor could face life in prison, while another could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted on charges involving the deaths of pill mill patients, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday.

A news release said doctors Cynthia Cadet, 42, of Parkland, and Joseph Castronuovo, 72, of Key Largo, dispensed oxycodone and other controlled substances that resulted in a total of nine deaths.

The charges stem from Operation Oxy Alley, a coordinated investigation into pill mills in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which were an epicenter of nationwide pill fraud until a crackdown. Problems with pill mills were detailed in a Feb. 25, 2011, Business Journal article, “Pill mill practices savage lives, economy,” which was published amid high-profile raids.

An August 2011 indictment of 32 defendants said twin brothers Christopher George and Jeffrey George operated, managed and financed four pain management clinics in Broward and Palm Beach counties. From 2007 to early 2010, the pill mills distributed about 20 million oxycodone pills and made more than $40 million from the illegal sales of controlled substances, according to the indictments and court documents.

Since then, 28 defendants have entered guilty pleas and been sentenced.

Jeffrey George was sentenced to 15.5 years, while Christopher George received a 17.5 year sentence. Their mother was given a 30-month sentence.

A June article in Bloomberg Businessweek, “American Pain: The largest U.S. Pill Mill’s Rise and Fall,” profiled the rise and fall of the twins.

The article includes what is called the first on-the-record interview of Christopher George, who told the magazine he found doctors by putting ads on Craigslist. The assembly-line efficiency of the operation allowed some doctors to earn $37,500 a week as they saw 100 patients a day.

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