In 2007, twin brothers Chris and Jeff George, then 27, were looking for a way to get rich. Really rich. They found it under the tutelage of the "Candy Man," a physician who helped them start a $40 million pain-pill empire, according to an indictment against the brothers and 31 others filed Tuesday.
The Sun-Sentinel's Bob LaMendola traces the history of the empire to
this auspicious start -- at which point the boys were already on their way in criminal careers. The sons of real estate developer John Paul George (no sign of Ringo), they already had several drug-trafficking charges against them when they started opening pill mills.
They pioneered some techniques that would become hallmarks of Florida's recent pill-mill boom: accepting only cash to avoid insurance-related regulation, hiring doctors who had little clue or interest what was going on, as long as they got a fat paycheck (one doctor they hired hardly spoke English), hiring managers who oversaw a system of bribes to get the most desperate addicts in the door quickly, and showing callous disregard for the lives (or deaths) of their "patients."
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The doctors spent no more than a few minutes with each customer before writing prescriptions, the indictment said. The brothers gave them stamp pads so they could easily mark each script with identical dosages. They had staffers forge prescriptions so customers could get falsified MRIs to document their injuries.
To control the operation from top to bottom, officials said, the Georges set up one of their steroid telemarketers in a mobile MRI business that operated behind a strip club. It made $2 million.
In recorded phone conversations, the brothers complained about patients who had been dumb enough to die or be injured after coming to a clinic. "You got to be an idiot to get hit by a train," Chris George told one of his clinic managers, after some customers from Tennessee were hit by a train, scattering oxycodone pills all over the accident scene, leaving a virtual trail back to the Georges' ill-gotten empire.
Mom was also complicit in the operation, keeping about $4.5 million in cash in the attic of her home in Wellington.
Chris George was already in jail since November on federal gun-possession charges. Everyone arrested is pleading not guilty.