Palm Beach State Attorney Michael McAuliffe has announced charges against multiple people in "Operation Prescription for Death," a two-year interagency investigation surrounding the death of Joey Bartolucci, a customer of East Coast Pain Clinic who obtained prescriptions from one of the defendants, Dr. Joseph Klein.
Dr. Klein provided Mr. Bartolucci with prescriptions for one-hundred-fifty (150) 8mg. Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) pills, thirty (30) 2mg. Xanax (Alprazolam) pills and thirty (30) 25mg. Nortriptyline pills. Mr. Bartolucci filled the prescriptions for Dilaudid and Xanax that same day. Mr. Bartolucci died that night or early the next day.
Klein is being charged with first-degree murder.
Another defendant, Jeff George, who ran several high-profile pain clinics in Palm Beach County along with his brother Chris, faces charges of trafficking in hydroporphone and hydrocodone, multiple conspiracies to traffic, and illegal sales.
The federal government has had its eye on these young brothers for a while. In October 2010, Chris George was indicted for possessing firearms and ammunition as a convicted person. It seems the feds were interested in more charges: during a custody hearing, prosecutors argued that George was a flight risk and should remain in jail. In the course of this explanation, they dropped the revelation that George was the subject of a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation for fraud and racketeering.
Prosecutors painted a colorful scene at the hearing. They said that while a search of Chris George's home was under way, he called his friend Chris Hutson and said, "I'm fucked... there's fucking two guns in the garage." They said that George had told his girlfriend to "say they are yours."
They told the judge that George was involved in the kidnapping and assault of Robert Eddy, a rival pain-clinic owner who they said had stolen half a million dollars in cash from the Georges' pain clinics. "They handcuffed the victim and discharged a firearm near his head. They subsequently released the victim and paid him not to reveal the circumstances of the kidnapping. The defendant subsequently solicited a government confidential informant to murder the victim so that he would not testify about the pain clinics."
That informant, of course, flipped on the Georges, effectively "ratting them out." This was likely an FBI special agent, who then received a surprise on her phone: "Within a few days of the defendant's arrest... a photograph of a tattoo which the defendant had recently imprinted on his leg depicting a rat hanging from a noose was sent to a government witness in the pending investigation of the defendant," prosecutors announced in court.
Along with Jeff George and Klein, another defendant, Theodore Obermeyer, is named in many of the charges in the most recent indictment.
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Chris George is still awaiting his trial on the gun charges; it is scheduled for late September.