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Jury convicts South Florida doctor of illegally prescribing pain pills for cash

A South Florida pain management doctor was convicted at trial for illegally prescribing pain pills to most patients at his clinic without any legitimate medical basis and sometimes without examining them at all, prosecutors said Thursday.

Osmin Morales, 72, of Weston, is licensed in Florida as a medical doctor who is authorized to prescribe controlled substances at his clinic in Miami-Dade County and has been practicing since 1997, state Department of Health records show. The jury found him guilty on Jan. 12 after a seven-day trial of conspiracy to unlawfully dispense and distribute controlled substances and six counts of unlawfully dispensing controlled substances.

Morales wrote prescriptions for oxycodone, morphine and alprazolam, known by the brand name Xanax, to the majority of patients who sought them in order to profit off selling the addictive drugs for cash, according to the indictment filed in June 2022.

Former patients testified at trial that they had received prescriptions from staff without being examined by Morales, prosecutors said in a news release Thursday.

“One patient’s mother testified that she had begged Morales to stop prescribing narcotics to her daughter, because she was becoming dysfunctional, but he continued prescribing them,” the news release said.

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent testified that between 2015 and 2020, Morales had prescribed opioids to over 1,000 people, largely for the maximum available dose, prosecutors said in a news release Thursday. Almost a third of the patients had criminal records related to drug dealing.

An expert pain medicine witness testified that the patient records he reviewed showed no adequate medical reasoning for the opioids or alprazolam, according to prosecutors. The combination of prescriptions for oxycodone and morphine, types of opioids, and for benzodiazepines like Xanax that Morales routinely wrote created a higher risk of overdose and death, the expert testified.

Xanax and other brands of alprazolam are benzodiazepines, which slow down the central nervous system. Users often abuse the pills by crushing and snorting them, often to enhance feelings of euphoria, according to the DEA.

Oxycodone is an opioid that gives feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Morphine was historically injected but is available in a variety of forms, according to the DEA.

Three others were charged in the indictment. Morales’s employee Bonnie Newborn Hughes pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to unlawfully dispense and distribute controlled substances and will be sentenced in April, court records show.

“On numerous days Hughes gave controlled substance prescriptions to dozens of patients who were in the waiting room, and who did not see Dr. Morales at all,” said a factual proffer, the facts agreed on by the defendant and prosecution.

Yanet Caridad Perez, who owned a separate clinic in Miami-Dade County and worked with Morales, pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to unlawfully dispense and distribute controlled substances. She testified for the prosecution at the doctor’s trial and is set to voluntarily surrender in May to begin her 30-month sentence, followed by three years of supervised release, according to court documents.

“On some occasions Y. Perez received a large number of controlled substance prescriptions from Morales while he was sitting in his car in the clinic parking lot,” a factual proffer said. “She then handed out those prescriptions to the waiting patients after Morales left, without having entered the clinic.”

Morales’s employee Elaine Perez pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to unlawfully dispense and distribute controlled substances and was sentenced in September 2023 to 63 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. She is in custody in West Virginia, Federal Bureau of Prisons records show.

“On at least one occasion E. Perez gave a controlled substance prescription to a patient who was outside in the parking lot,” a factual proffer said.

Morales pre-wrote and signed prescriptions for the drugs for Caridad Perez, Perez and Hughes to give regular patients when he was not at the clinic or they forged his signature, according to the indictment. Several patients got many or most of their prescriptions from Caridad Perez, Perez and Hughes on a monthly basis throughout 2019, when Morales was absent most of the year due to a stroke, according to factual proffers.

Returning patients would pay $250 cash. Prosecutors said a former employee, who they did not name in the news release, testified that she took in about $4,000 a day in cash, and most days Morales was not at the clinic.

At least one of the defendants on multiple occasions falsified medical records to show that patients were examined or that they received other care that was not provided, the indictment said. Prosecutors said medical records described exams, including descriptions of patients’ symptoms and Morales’s diagnosis, but Morales was out of the country on many of the dates reflected in the records.

Florida Department of Health records show Morales was previously disciplined twice, once in 2013, in part, for failing to meet patient record-keeping requirements. He received a letter of concern from the Board of Medicine and was ordered to pay a total settlement over $11,000.

He was disciplined in 2014 for not fulfilling the settlement payment and received a letter of concern from the board, health department records say. As of Thursday evening, state health department records say Morales’s license is active.

Morales’s sentencing hearing is currently scheduled for April 17, according to prosecutors. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for each charge.

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