A West Hollywood psychiatrist and a man suspected to be an accomplice were arrested Tuesday afternoon for allegedly running a "pill mill" that helped customers obtain drug prescriptions without proper consultations, federal authorities announced. The alleged ring was uncovered when someone put a powerful drug obtained through the doctor up for sale on Craigslist, officials said.
Dr. Nathan Kuemmerle, 37, of Hollywood, and Antonie "Tony" Phillips, 28, of the Koreatown, were arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement agents and Redondo Beach police, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. The pair was charged in criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
Kuemmerle allegedly took patients who came in off the street and quickly wrote prescriptions for powerful, addictive drugs like Adderall and Xanax, sometimes stuffing the resulting compensation -- cash -- into his pocket on the spot, federal officials said in statement release Tuesday.
Phillips, the manager of the doctor's Santa Monica Boulveard office, is alleged to have prescreened prospective patients and even prepared prescriptions for Kuemmerle to sign.
Authorities contend that Kuemmerle was the state's second-largest prescriber of U.S. "schedule II" drugs, a group that includes Adderall, OxyContin, Vicodin and Xanax.
Authorities in Redondo Beach began looking into the doc's practice after they busted a local man who had allegedly put Adderall obtained through Kuemmerle for sale on Craigslist, officials said.
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"Kuemmerle later wrote prescriptions for Subutex, which at $15 a tablet was expensive, so the doctor suggested that the individual sell Adderall on Craigslist to help pay for the Subutex, an opiate which is used to treat opiate addictions," reads the U.S. Attorney's Office statement.
The man turned informant. Authorities then visited the doc's office undercover seven times and report coming away with drugs for cash.
UC San Diego clinical professor Steven Ornish wrote a report on the doctor for authorities. He found that Kuemmerle wrote 14,529 prescriptions -- an average of 15 per five-hour workday -- from 2006 to late 2009.
The pair each could face 20 years behind bars if convicted.