A former physician on Thursday admitted to being part of a pill mill in a regional chain of pain clinics.
Paul W. Burke, 68, of Parkersburg, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances not for legitimate medical purposes, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said in a news release.
Burke was one of 12 people indicted in 2018 for participating in an alleged pill mill scheme for HOPE Clinic between 2010 and 2015.
Burke faces up to five years in prison when sentenced on Jan. 30, 2020.
HOPE Clinic operated as a pain management clinic in Charleston, Beckley and Beaver, West Virginia; and in Wytheville, Virginia. Federal prosecutors allege those involved in the alleged scheme distributed oxycodone and other Schedule II controlled substances outside of their legitimate and intended medical purposes between November 2010 and June 2015.
Burke worked at the HOPE Clinic, in Charleston, from April 2014 through September 2014.
He said the owner of the HOPE Clinic recruited him to work there despite Burke being primarily an emergency room doctor and surgeon with little experience in dealing with chronic pain patients and no training in prescribing Schedule II narcotics for the treatment of chronic pain, Stuart said in the news release.
The owner explained to Burke that narcotics auditors employed by Patients, Physicians and Pharmacists Fighting Diversion Inc., who were “former DEA Agents,” would screen customers for abuse, addiction and diversion prior to the customer ever seeing him. In approximately April 2014, Burke began working at the Charleston HOPE Clinic.
The Patients, Physicians and Pharmacists Fighting Diversion Inc., was owned by Mark T. Radcliffe. Radcliffe and Dr. James Blume Jr., the practice manager of HOPE Clinic, each are accused of managing the scheme.
Burke admitted that when he started working at the HOPE Clinic, it became apparent that some of the customers were not getting properly evaluated prior to the doctors writing them prescriptions for opioids, that the customers’ files were poorly kept and had little relevant medical information in them, Stuart said. Burke admitted that many of the patients came to the HOPE Clinic from out of state, and most customers paid in cash.
He also admitted that he often received a bonus on top of his hourly pay that was clearly based on the number of paying customers at the clinic.
“Despite all of these red flags, Burke admitted that he continued to work at the HOPE Clinic and continued to write customers prescriptions for Schedule II narcotics,” Stuart said.