The mission: a complete takedown of Midtown Medical Clinic and the arrest of Dr. Jeffrey Lipman. The alleged “pill mill” was just a few blocks from the Miami Police staging area where DEA, Florida Department of Health, City of Miami as well as Miami-Dade County police suited up and listened as their superiors made sure each division knew their role.
Undercover agents had been conducting surveillance on the doctor and just gave word that he had arrived.
DEA was to secure the outside of the building as well as the patients as they were funneled out. They were also to find and secure the clinic’s security guard. Being a cash-only operation with an additional large stash of oxycodone, most clinics have at least one or two armed guards in addition to video surveillance.
Fox News was allowed to shadow law enforcement on this, one of the many pill mill raids happening simultaneously Wednesday across three Florida counties. On this raid, Miami police were the first inside the clinic, tasked with securing the wanted doctor and any staff or patients inside.
Upon arrival, a few patrons were milling around the parking lot or in their cars. The agents quickly lined them up against the wall and ran their licenses for any outstanding warrants while frisking them for weapons or pills.
Within minutes, a line of 20 patients were escorted out of the building and added to the line outside.
Another patron pulled into the driveway and once she realized a raid was going down she attempted to back out. She was stopped and also added to the line.
Three Miami officers worked quickly to run all the licenses. One woman had a warrant out for her. Another had a big bottle of Xanax. A female police officer spilled the pills in her hand as she leaned into her colleague’s police cruiser, lights flashing.
“She doesn't have a prescription. She said that the bottle belongs to somebody else and she put the pills in here. It's a way lot of pills,” she said.
All of the patrons were from Florida, although one couple drove up in a car with Connecticut license plates.
Florida Department of Health workers quickly fanned out in front of the patients with questionnaires. A few of the patrons voluntarily signed medical release forms and discussed their medical conditions with the investigators. A worker explained, “we’re not after you, we just need your help to try to figure out if your doctor was following all the right regulations.”
A few patrons complained that they had already paid for their visit that now had been interrupted. A health department staff member explained that patients pre-pay the doctor in cash. Without cash up front you won’t get seen. This is typical of pill mill operations. The health employee proceeded to give the patients receipts to collect their money back from the doctor “when he decides what to do.”
Staffers told us the neighbors had long been complaining about the clinics’ patrons, who often used the pills right in the parking lot, melting them down and shooting them - the time-release action of the pill was too long a wait for their high.
When the doctor was finally led out of the building in handcuffs, he didn’t say much. “Were you operating legally here sir?” Spanish media asked. “Yes,” he responded as he ducked into the police cruiser. Offiers brought him around the front of the clinic and loaded him into the back of a corrections van headed to the Dade County Jail.
Shortly afterward, agents brought out boxes of evidence and loaded them into an SUV.
They said they would be there all day collecting paperwork and computers and, of course, cataloguing and processing the pills.
DEA Agent Manuel A. Recio said “pill mill” doctors, once convicted, are stripped of their DEA prescribing ID, which is the most important penalty they receive.
“We're trying to make a difference. A lot of these pharmaceutical drugs are getting into the hands of our young kids and teenagers, and they're using these drugs without knowing what they are,” Recio said. He said all law enforcement divisions would continue their work on behalf of the community to stop clinics that mis-prescribe from functioning.
On this day the Midtown Medical Clinic was shut down, at least temporarily.
“Where can I get my prescription now?” asked one patient. “You mean I gotta find another doctor?”
“Yes,” a health department worker replied. “I would find another doctor.”
The product of a lengthy undercover investigation, the raid was a first for this alleged pill mill.
Dr. Lipman was charged with six counts of trafficking oxycodone.
The arrest affidavit states: “Dr. Lipman prescribed controlled substances without legitimate medical need and not in the course of usual professional practice. He prescribed these medications in excessive doses to patients who denied the presence of pain. ...
"Dr, Lipman failed to perform necessary physical examinations and seemed to believe that an abnormality on an MRI study 'qualified' a patient for controlled substances even in the absence of pain complaints….practices at the premises are consistent with those of the usual 'pill mill' where cash is the only form of payment, patients often travel from long distances and sell prescribed controlled substances, physical examinations are not performed … controlled substances are prescribed in excessive dosages and potentially fatal combinations.”