Police Chief: No. 1 Priority 'To Dismantle That Illegal Enterprise'
Lilburn Police Chief Bruce Hedley talks to Patch about investigating Premier Medical Management, Inc., a suspected pill mill in the city limits.
See updates to this story:
Jan. 28, 2:30 p.m.: Charges Announced for Four Arrested in Lilburn 'Pill Mill' Operation
It was the curiosity of concerned residents that first led Lilburn Police to begin investigating Premier Medical Management, Inc., a suspected pill mill on Lawrenceville Highway.
About a year ago, Police Chief Bruce Hedley said citizen complaints started pouring in, pharmacists started complaining and suspicious vehicles with out-of-state tags kept showing up at the facility.
Located at 3993 Lawrenceville Highway, the clinic's proximity to Berkmar High School was particularly disturbing to the police chief. Some 3,000 students attend the school.
"It was a big concern to me when I learned that it was in such a close proximity of one of the county's largest high schools," Hedley said. "There's almost a contiguous border from the parking lot of the clinic to the real property line of the school."
"It was my No. 1 priority in 2012," he added. "My No. 1 priority was to dismantle that illegal enterprise and shut them down because they're doing nothing but spreading poison in our community.
"And, I was deathly afraid that somehow the children of that school would get connected to that pain clinic."
Pain Clinic Raid
After starting their own investigation, Lilburn Police turned to federal authorities. And, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) became the lead investigative agency in the case. Lilburn Police supplied resources to assist when needed, Hedley said.
Finally, on Jan. 24, Lilburn Police along with federal and county law enforcement raided the pain management clinic. Records were seized; other evidence gathered. And, Dr. George Williams, a licensed gynecologist who was practicing medicine at the clinic, was captured by Hedley as he tried to flee.
Along with Williams, Hedley said there were three other suspects who were indicted on federal charges related to the operation of the pain management clinic. At least two of those were Larry and Randy Webman, brothers whose family has a long history of fraud.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta did not immediately return requests for details of the Jan. 24 indictment. But, Hedley said several federal indictments and warrants were issued for a total of four suspects, including the front office manager of the facility.
According to Georgia Secretary of State data, Randy Webman is the registered agent of Premier Medical Management, Inc., Larry Webman is the chief financial officer; and a New York attorney Don Secunda is the chief executive officer.
The state business filling dates back to March 2011. According to city officials, the company acquired its occupational tax certificate for the 2012 -2013 year.
'Worth the Effort'
"They weren't in operation long before we started to receive the complaints," Hedley said. "It wasn't much longer after they started their operation (that) we started to investigate them."
In February 2012, in fact, the city approved a moratorium on issuing licenses for pain management clinics. By August, Lilburn City Council approved an ordinance making it tougher for such businesses to set up shop.
In the meantime, Hedley said he "personally received a number of phone calls from pharmacists around the country concerning the scripts that Dr. Williams was writing." After about three months, local pharmacists stopped providing services to patients with prescriptions from that doctor, as well.
More and more local muncipalities are having to battle illegal peddlers of pain medicine. Georgia has seen an increase in recent years of the problem, as shady doctors cross the Florida border.
More municipalities need to be serious about strict legislation to keep crooked clinic operators out of communities, Hedley said. He's confident that the latest arrests in Lilburn will serve as a warning to any such persons.
"It was certainly worth the effort," Hedley said of the yearlong investigation, "because even if they wouldn't have come to Lilburn and we wouldn't have had this problem, and they would have done it somewhere else, and it still would have poisoned our communities."