4 indicted for phony pain clinic

The August raid on a pain clinic in Tyrone, along with several other locations in the metro Atlanta area, has resulted in four people being indicted on federal drug and money laundering charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta.

The probe of the AMARC clinic began in 2009 when the federal Drug Enforcement Administration learned that AMARC physicians “prescribed pain pills outside the bounds of legitimate medical practice,” prosecutors said.

Those charged in the case include Godfrey Ilonzo, 63, of Alpharetta; Bona Ilonzo, 51, of Alpharetta; Dr. Nevorn Askari, 57, of Monroe; and Dr. William Richardson, 59, of Atlanta. The businesses were owned by Godfrey Ilonzo and his wife, Bona, served as the office manager at the main AMARC office, while Askari and Richardson at various times served as the primary doctors for AMARC clinics, prosecutors said.

The indictment against the four co-defendants claims they “worked together to facilitate the prescribing of oxycodone pills and other controlled substances to addicts and distributors,” prosecutors said.

In the operation, Askari and Richardson issued prescriptions for controlled substances “for medically inappropriate and potentially lethal dosages and combinations … without conducting adequate medical examinations.”

Such operations are commonly referred to as “pill mills.”

Askari is also accused of pre-signing prescriptions without seeing patients in person following the initial face-to-face appointment.

“The indictment alleges that the AMARC pain clinics constituted a drug distribution operation with very high volumes of patients, many of whom visited the clinics in groups from other counties in Georgia and surrounding states,” prosecutors said in a press release. “Many of those visiting had apparent signs of being addicts or drug dealers. The defendants allegedly made millions of dollars during the operation of the AMARC pain clinics which they used to recruit additional physicians and patients to the AMARC pain clinics, and to open additional clinics under the “AMARC” name.”

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; prosecutors also want Askari and Richardson to forfeit their medical licenses.