LEHIGH ACRES — State authorities have suspended the license of a Lee County physician who was arrested in April for operating a “pill mill” practice at her former Dollar Medical Clinic in Lehigh Acres and in Pinellas Park.
The emergency suspension against Dr. Jacinta Gillis, 41, is for committing medical malpractice at her former clinic at 904 Lee Blvd., Suite. 111. She has been licensed to practice medicine in Florida since 2003. She listed her specialities as internal medicine and general surgery.
The suspension order said she prescribed controlled substances, namely Percocet, OxyContin, Valium, Xanax and Soma, a muscle relaxer, to patients from June 2008 to December 2009 without adequate medical examination and at inappropriate quantities.
On April 28, 2011, Gillis was arrested by a multi-agency task force, which included the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, after a two-year investigation she was running a pill mill operation for monetary gain. The state order also said an employee at a second Dollar Medical Clinic in Pinellas County told undercover officers she had used a webcam with at least 50 patients to remotely prescribe pills.
Arrested at a traffic stop on Colonial Boulevard in Lee County, she was charged with four felony counts of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to traffic in oxycodone and money laundering. She was booked in the Lee County Jail on $1 million bond.
In October last year before her arrest, the multi-agency task force served search warrants at her clinics in Pinellas Park and Lehigh, and at her Fort Myers home. She voluntarily surrendered her license with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to prescribe controlled substances in both counties.
A few months later, she hired another doctor and offered that doctor $1,000 a month to write prescriptions on her behalf. The hired physician left within days out of concern that Gillis was using her for the pill mill operation.
Before her arrest, Gillis filed a lawsuit against the Lee County Sheriff’s Office seeking the return of her belongings and $63,000 in cash that was seized in the raid.
With the suspension of her license by health-care regulators, Gillis has the right to file a petition for review within 30 days. The state will initiate disciplinary action and if probable cause of wrongdoing is found by a three-member panel of the of the Board of Medicine, she has the right to elect to have a formal hearing before an administrative law judge or to have a hearing before the full medical board.
Florida legislators last year passed pill mill legislation to crack down on the operations that have become widespread, especially in South Florida, but no money was attached to the law, garnering criticism from law enforcement agencies. Gov. Rick Scott had vowed to repeal the law and then a compromise was reached during the recent session for tougher rules on pain management clinics, among other measures.
Scott weighed in on Thursday’s suspension of Gillis’ license.
“Today in Florida, local law enforcement strike teams are working to identify, investigate, and apprehend those in the medical and pharmaceutical distribution chains who are facilitating the abuse of prescription drugs,” Scott said in a statement. “Those efforts coupled with the Department of Health’s regulation of practitioners will make Florida a leader in the fight against prescription drug abuse.”
Connect with health-care reporter Liz Freeman at www.naplesnews.com/staff/liz_freeman