2 doctors, chiropractor charged with drug violations at Rostraver pain clinic
Fayette County chiropractor Jack R. Taylor pressured physicians working at his Rostraver practice into prescribing pain medications to patients, many of whom were addicts, agents of the state Attorney General's office said Friday.
Taylor, 59, of Washington Township, Dr. Mark Gordon Boles, 59, a failed 2004 congressional candidate from Monroeville, and Dr. Edward W. Sweeney, 65, of Shaler, were arrested Friday for allegedly running a corrupt organization that peddled prescriptions for potent pain medications, according to a presentment issued by a state grand jury. All three posted bond.
“Former and current employees testified that ... individuals outside of the practice would call Pittsburgh Healthworx and report that specific patients were either abusing their pills and/or selling their pills to people on the street,” according to the presentment accusing the three men of illegally prescribing OxyContin, oxycodone, hydrocodone and other controlled substances.
Similar charges were leveled against Pittsburgh Healthworx. It was represented in court on Friday by Taylor's father, Jack Taylor, 82, of Carroll Township, the executive director of the business. He has not been charged.
He told West Newton District Judge Charles Christner that he would not be hiring an attorney. “I can't afford it,” Taylor said.
In a news release, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said that chiropractor Taylor ostensibly required patients receiving prescription medications through Pittsburgh Healthworx to have chiropractic visits several times a week.
“Many of those patients did not comply with maintaining their chiropractic appointments and would only show up ... when they were scheduled to visit the medical doctor and receive their prescriptions,” the presentment alleges.
Doctors would sometimes stay at the office until 2 a.m. seeing patients, it says. The grand jury alleges that from January 2007 to May 2013, the facility received more than $2.3 million in payments for services through Highmark insurance.
Defense attorney John Flannery II of Virginia said the chiropractor has provided records, requested by the state, showing that patients were treated appropriately for various ailments.
Christner set Taylor's bond at $250,000, prompting whispered calls of “ridiculous” and tears from former patients who watched the brief proceeding. Some used crutches. They called the charges “unjust.”
“Each day, I deal with addicts, addicts who are committing crimes. ... Some of this stuff that I'm seeing — could it be a result of what was happening up there?” Christner said.
Yma Smith of LaBelle called Taylor a “gifted” chiropractor. “He took care of me,” she said. “He's special, he's loving.”
But the grand jury alleges Boles and Sweeney were illegally prescribing medications to drug-dependent patients.
“Doctors are supposed to help free patients from the grip of addiction, not put them into the throes of it,” Kane's release said.
Pennsylvania ranks 14th in the country for drug overdoses — mostly caused by prescription drugs, she said.
Boles told agents it was a “free for all” when it came to prescribing narcotics, the presentment says.
His attorney, Louis Emmi, said Boles did not receive any more compensation than his hourly wage.
“I'm ready to face the charges, and we're going to argue those charges,” Boles told Christner before posting $100,000 to meet bond.
Sweeney told Christner that after personal health problems, he needed to resume work to support his family. That led to Pittsburgh Healthworx, where he allegedly was pressured to write prescriptions.
“It's something I shouldn't have gotten involved in,” Sweeney said. “During the process of being there, I tried to make things right” by drug testing patients and discharging patients.
Sweeney said his attorney, Donna McClelland, was not present. Christner set bond at $50,000.
“It sounds like you've been somewhat victimized yourself,” Christner said.
Sweeney and Boles face charges carrying mandatory five-year sentences because of the amount of pills involved, agents said.
In addition to insurance payments to the practice, chiropractor Taylor is alleged to have misled UNUM Insurance by claiming to be unable to work after a motorcycle accident in September 2010. He returned to his practice full time in January 2011.
Agents said Taylor collected about $45,000 in disability benefits while collecting a full salary from Pittsburgh Healthworx.
Flannery said Taylor stopped working there in 2010. “Things are not as simple as black and white,” Flannery said.
On its website, Pittsburgh Healthworx billed itself as a “center for pain relief,” resulting from headaches, chronic conditions and fibromyalgia, as well as sports, work or car crash injuries.
Taylor faces charges of conspiracy in a corrupt organization, insurance fraud and theft by deception.
Boles is charged with conspiracy in a corrupt organization, illegally dispensing drugs by a medical practitioner, dispensing drugs to a drug-dependent person, submitting a false claim, conspiracy to illegally dispense drugs and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity.
Pittsburgh Healthworx is charged with two counts of corrupt organizations and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities. Taylor, Boles and the business are charged in an April 2007 incident, according to online court records. Sweeney faces the same charges as Boles in connection with an incident on Sept. 30, 2009, court records show.
Preliminary hearings are scheduled for Feb. 7.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.