Cynthia Cadet, 46, of Parkland, FL has to turn herself in to prison by noon Monday, Sept 12, 2016, for a 6 ½ year term. In July 2013, although acquitted of the most serious charges of causing the death of 7 patients, she was convicted of a money-laundering conspiracy involving a chain of South Florida pain clinics based on her income. She was one of 13 physicians indicted in 2011, and one of 2 physicians who decided to go to trial. She then was able to remain outside of prison while she worked through the appeal process.
The owner of the clinic, Christopher George, 35, is serving a 16 year prison term. Patients from Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee and other states to the north drove down to Florida between 2008 and 2010, and then supposedly turned the drugs over to dealers who sold them. At the time Florida did not have a prescription drug-monitoring program and the home states were becoming difficult to receive pain management. At that time I was being attacked, and I remember some of my legitimate patients were unable to find doctors and were traveling to Georgia. In my opinion, these clinics offered a service to patients. But I saw the writing on the wall: that travel to these available clinics would only be temporary.
Prosecutors and Judges work together
The government asserted that Dr. Cadet should have figured out that the George twins were operating a criminal enterprise. To show that there is prejudice on the bench, US Magistrate Judge Linnea Johnson said “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know a pill mill,” Judge Marra, in the manner necessary for the court to confiscate assets, stated that it was “just impossible” the doctors did not know what was going on and that their payments were coming from illegal drug activity—ergo, the government could confiscate her assets.
Gross government conduct
The prosecution got former patients to testify that Dr. Cadet did only the most cursory interviews and examinations before literally using a rubber stamp to prescribe highly addictive medications. But they also testified that they lied, cried and twisted their bodies during MRI tests to fake injuries and persuade her to give them what they wanted. That is all the testimony needed to show that the doctor was prescribing under the description of “legitimate medical practice” and not out on the street. So she should never have been charged, and most certainly should not be headed to prison.
Prosecutors played security video that showed Cadet spent an average of less than five minutes with her patients. Six minutes is common in any doctor’s practice for just med refills, and that includes patients with multiple problems. Carillion, the hospital with clinics in my area, require that their primary care doctors allow only 11 minutes per visit. As long as the pain is controlled and all that is necessary is a refill of medication, 5 minutes is long enough.
Prosecutors got other of the 28 co-defendants to testify. More than likely deals were struck to give them less prison time. Handcuffed, shackled and dressed in jail scrubs, the former owner and several doctors testified that all of the doctors were hired with the implicit understanding that they would prescribe as many pain pills as they possibly could without attracting the unwanted attention of the DEA. Now that is a ridiculous statement. Anyone would know that the DEA would be watching these clinics. They were obviously scripted to say what the prosecution wanted, and their appearance didn’t help to keep the jury unprejudiced either.
Sclafan, the co-defendant’s lawyer said “I think it became clear from listening to some of the doctors’ testimony at trial that they really did not believe they were violating the law.” And they weren’t. According to the law, if the doctor was seeing a person as a patient in his office, he would be exempt from charges based on the Controlled Substances Act. It is only through prosecutorial misuse of the term “legitimate medical practice” that doctors are being charged criminally all over the country. Even a Supreme Court Justice has said that the terminology in the Code means that to be charged, a doctor must be selling pills on the street. But no one in the Justice Department wants to correct this injustice because everyone is making money off of it.
Cadet’s defense was that she believed she was providing appropriate medical care to each individual patient, as the law requires. “We’re doing a service and getting money for it,” There shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. She also offered to take an FBI polygraph test to exonerate herself, a proposal turned down by US District Attorney Schwartz.
“She’s been screaming from the rooftop since day one that she’s innocent,” said Michael Weinstein, Dr. Cadet’s current attorney. “Just because another doctor takes a plea doesn’t mean that she’s done something wrong.” “There’s no connection between her care of patients and the day-to-day operation of the clinic.”
To prove her practice was legitimate, she was videotaped discharging a patient with signs of drug use and referred other patients to de-tox services at another clinic. It was also noted in the indictment that the doctors relied on preliminary radiology reports in prescribing. That action would make the treatment legitimate practice.
Prosecutors uses the usual arguments against the doctors, saying they prescribed a standard “cocktail” of controlled substances — specifically, oxycodone and alprazolam — on an assembly-line basis without obtaining prior medical records, ordering alternative treatments such as physical therapy, or referring anyone to specialists and that they accepted only cash or credit cards. None of these actions are criminal. The decision of treatment is the doctor’s alone. And not involving insurance is one way to protect yourself in a hostile government environment and allow charges to be more reasonable for the average patient.
It is criminal to put innocent doctors in prison. Dr. Cadet is a former U.S. Air Force major and has two young children. She should not be spending the next 6 years in prison for doing her job.