The state Surgeon General on Thursday shut down a Pinellas County pain clinic accused of prescribing potentially lethal doses of oxycodone. It's the same clinic that was the focus of a FOX 13 investigation back in November of 2011.
The emergency order against Whitney Enterprises is just temporary, but Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told FOX 13, "We want to see him out of business permanently."
Gualtieri was talking about clinic owner Lance Whitney. His clinic on Alternate 19 in Palm Harbor was the subject of a 20-month investigation looking into the operation and practices of the clinic.
According to the 32-page document, Lance Whitney hired doctors who prescribed "inappropriate or excessive quantities of controlled substances."
The order cites "potentially lethal doses of oxycodone" and also mentions Whitney's rap videos, which caught our attention as well. We first showed them as part of a FOX 13 investigation.
The report states what seemed obvious to us, that "Mr. Whitney has publicly exalted the use of illegal controlled substances."
In one video, he's holding "what law enforcement has identified as a marijuana bud." In the lyrics to another song, Whitney mentions "sniffing coke."
Authorities call the clinic a pill mill.
"These places are nothing more than drug distribution outlets and the people who run them are drug dealers," stated Sheriff Gualtieri.
"And you believe that's what was taking place at Whitney Enterprises?" Doug Smith asked.
"Yes," Gualtieri replied. "We've had problems there, we've known about it since it opened. We've received several complaints on it. It's been the subject of our countywide directed patrols. It's just a problematic drug distribution business."
We contacted Lance Whitney's attorney, Dale Sisco, who told us over the phone he intends to contest the emergency order and suggested the actions of law enforcement border on misconduct.
Sisco made it a point to tell us Dr. Sanjeev Grover, who left the clinic last year and is referenced throughout the report, has been indicted for illegal actions unrelated to Whitney Enterprises.
Sisco told us Lance Whitney won't be talking, but Sheriff Gualtieri said his office has heard from him directly.
"He made complaints that we were, quote, in his words, harassing him. And I guess he's probably right. We were very proactively investigating him and the people going into the business. He can characterize it as harassment; we characterize it as effective law enforcement," Gualtieri added.
Under the terms of the order of emergency suspension, the clinic will remain closed until an administrative hearing.
The Pinellas County sheriff plans to take a personal interest in the case.
"We want to see him out of business permanently."
In addition to the action taken by the state Surgeon General, Pinellas County suspended Whitney Enterprises' permit to operate due to a false statement on its 2012 application to operate a high-prescribing health clinic.
LINK: Emergency order document (PDF)
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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