August 30, 2011 | 10:27am
On February 27, 2009, Joey Bartolucci walked into East Coast Pain Clinic. He received 150 Dilaudid painkiller pills and 30 Xanax pills, according to prosecutors in Palm Beach County. Sometime that night or the next day, Bartolucci died. Medical examiners attributed the death to an overdose.
The pain clinic was run by Jeff George, who with his brother started what would become a $40 million empire of shady pill mills around South Florida. Patients scrambled for spots in the lines outside; the clinics became hot spots for drug addicts commuting down the infamous "pill alley" from states like Kentucky, according to prosecutors.
Now clinic owner Jeff George will spend at least 15 years in jail: He has pleaded guilty to
second-degree murder and conspiracy to traffic Dilaudid in connection with the patient's death.
The doctor who prescribed the medication to Bartolucci, Joseph Klein, has been charged with first-degree murder in a vast set of charges stemming from a multi-agency operation called "Prescription for Death" that involved the Palm Beach County State Attorney and federal agencies.
"Records show that during the time frame of January 2009 and June 2010, Dr. Klein, through his business relationship with Mr. George and Mr. Obermeyer, dispensed over 300,000 Oxycodone pills," the state attorney's office said in a news release.
George still faces multiple other charges, but these represent some of the most serious. The maximum allowed sentence for the murder charge is life in prison, and the trafficking charge carries a maximum of 30 years and a 15-year mandatory minimum.
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