Bonita pain management clinic brings Lee deputies out 550 times, concerns nearby tenants

Is it Dr. Giventer, Dr. Posca or a model? Doctor profiles for both physicians at the Southwest Florida Medical Solutions website use the same photo and mostly the same text. To compare the two, click on documents below. (It's a model.)

— One address, 10 months, 27 arrests —18 or more of them drug-related — and 556, the number of times Lee County deputies have gone to the parking lot to check it out or respond to calls there.

Those staggering numbers mean deputies were drawn up to four times a day this year to the parking lot of Sunshine Professional Center on Bonita Beach Road.

It wasn't always this way.

Patrol cars became a frequent sight in the once-peaceful parking lot after Southwest Florida Medical Solutions, a pain management clinic, opened on the third floor of building C, 9240 Bonita Beach Road, in December. That's according to deputies, tenants and employees who work in the office complex.

"We never saw police in our parking lot before these folks came in," said Dr. Mark Montgomery, an ear, nose and throat specialist who for 10 years has leased his office in Sunshine Professional Plaza, a half mile east of Bonita Springs City Hall.

According to Lee County Sheriff's Office records, from 2007 to 2010 there were 62 police reports — including car crashes — at that location compared with the 556 visits by deputies in 2011.

To Eric Holland, the clinic's office manager, the numbers add up to harassment.

The pain management clinic where Holland works is the one recently tied to Dr. Anthony Posca, who was indicted 10 days ago by a federal grand jury in Jacksonville.

The indictment accuses Posca, other physicians and employees of First Coast Pain and Urgent Care in Jacksonville of drug conspiracy from December 2009 to July 2010.

Posca's charge accuses him of overprescribing medication. He's due back in court Monday for a hearing in the case.

To read the indictment, click on documents below.

Posca joined the Bonita Springs pain management clinic in July 2011, working three days a week, when one of the doctors, Lawrence Giventer, left.

Tenants and employees at Sunshine Professional Plaza were concerned about the goings-on there long before Posca arrived, though.

"It didn't take long when they first opened. We started seeing people you just don't normally see. And they were all going to that office," said Bob Hines, whose law office neighbors the clinic.

Some of the people Hines alludes to are written up in scores of Lee sheriff's reports.

Still today, deputies continue to write reports citing suspicious persons, loitering, prowling, and possession of a controlled substance including Xanax and Oxycodone – medications in the possession of people without a prescription in their name.

Even with the threat of a felony charge for having a prescribed medication without a designated prescription, those loitering in the parking lot have told deputies they are there waiting to buy pills, according to sheriff's reports filed between January and October.

Deputies have focused on activity in the parking lot, not inside the building. Deputies don't need a warrant to do police work outside in a parking lot.

"We are just gathering intelligence," Lee sheriff's Capt. Kathy Rairden said.

* * * * *

The pain management clinic moved to Sunshine Professional Center after closing up shop about two miles down the road in August 2010.

Its prior location was 4061 Bonita Beach Road, but that's in Collier County. Portions of Bonita Beach Road are in Collier County; other segments are in Lee.

Lt. Harold Minch of the Collier County Sheriff's Office said neighbors complained about the clinic when it was in Collier as well. Minch described the clinic's operation while in Collier County as a "pill mill."

By the end of January, less than a month after opening at the new Bonita Springs location, complaints brought deputies to Sunshine Professional Center regularly to make checks.

"Whenever they moved in it was like the word was out," said Chrissy Michelle, a former receptionist for a doctor at Sunshine Professional Center. "Our patients want to know, 'Why are the police out front?'"

In April, the Southwest Florida Medical Solutions website touted a treatment using "opiod therapy" and said medications were dispensed at the clinic, which now can't be done under a new Florida law. By June, the language was changed on the type of treatment provided and the reference was removed to dispensing medications there. To compare the two versions of its website, click on documents below.

She, like other employees of the office complex, took notice.

"When I go out to my car in afternoon, it's a little weird when someone is leaning against it," she said. "That's not safe for anyone. People are walking around with $300 cash in their pocket."

As deputies became a common presence in the parking lot, other patterns began to emerge. The clinic's website says it is only open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the same days most of the 18 drug-related arrests were made, according to sheriff's reports.

"If there's something there that attracts deputies, guess what. They're going to be there," Rairden said. "So we start seeing the progression of people loitering in the parking lot and deputies are checking them out and find out that these people are from out of the area.

"We start getting them from the city of Fort Myers. Then we start seeing them from Sarasota, Hendry County, start seeing them from Tampa, Miami," she said. "And (some of) these are people with extensive criminal histories."

* * * * *

Clinic manager Holland called it harassment."Two Fridays in a row I have at any given time (seen) three to five cop cars there harassing my patients," Holland wrote to Lee sheriff's Capt. Traci Sonier earlier this year.

"'What are you doing here?' 'What kind of medication did you get? Is it for a cut on your toe?'" Holland wrote, repeating the questions patients said they were asked by deputies in the parking lot. "It's frustrating to me as a manager to have my patients harassed, to have their right to reasonable privacy – the Fourth Amendment – blatantly violated," he added.

Holland sent Rairden a copy of a complaint made by a patient about law enforcement in the parking lot. The patient wrote that deputies are telling people to "find a new doctor" and are "trying to shut the place down."

Clinic manager Eric Holland called it harassment."Two Fridays in a row I have at any given time (seen) three to five cop cars there harassing my patients," Holland wrote to Lee sheriff's Capt. Traci Sonier earlier this year.

A quick review by Rairden revealed the patient had an extensive rap sheet and recently was released from the Lee County jail, including a charge of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. He also had a history of other drug charges, possession of a firearm, driving on a suspended license and resisting arrest, sheriff's officials said.

Sonier addressed Holland's frustrations, much like Rairden did.

"There have been numerous complaints coming in from citizens and other business owners regarding potential criminal activity in the area," Sonier wrote in an email back to Holland. "The deputies do have an obligation to address everyone's issues in the community."

* * * * *

Within weeks, deputies were receiving emails from community leaders grateful for the police presence.

"I would like to thank you for your continued patrol efforts centered at the Sunshine (center)," Councilwoman Janet Martin wrote to Rairden on Feb. 25.

"I work part time there and I have noticed a 'change' in our parking lot area." Martin added. "During lunch if time allows, we like to ... walk in the parking lot area ... when the loitering is present, we do not feel comfortable."

Bonita Springs city council member Janet Martin.

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER, Daily News

Bonita Springs city council member Janet Martin.

After that email, six people were arrested on drug-related charges in March, five — three of them drug-related — in April and three on drug-related charges in May.

In March, deputies began noticing small glass containers, like energy-boosting bottles, in the parking lot. Deputies said they spoke to people identified as patients of the clinic, who said the containers were used to hold drug-free urine. Under Florida law, patients at pain management clinics must be drug tested.

Rairden told Holland about the bottles, and Holland responded via email: "We would never allow a patient to bring his own sample to obtain more medication."

Rairden provided Holland with a name of one such patient and Holland responded that the person was banned from the clinic.

Still, in the weeks that followed, deputies continued to find bottles in the parking lot, according to sheriff's reports.

* * * * *

When Holland was first contacted by the Daily News, he said the owners would have to answer any questions.

"It's out of my hands. I can't control what happens here," Holland said by phone. "I'm just the manager."

Later, in a face-to-face conversation at the clinic in August, Holland said the letters and patrolling were part of a misunderstanding and that problems had ceased. He declined further comment and the Daily News was asked to leave the clinic's premises.

The Daily News subsequently sent certified letters, to no avail, seeking an interview with the manager and Giventer, the former doctor. Posca, the current doctor now indicted in Jacksonville, and the clinic owners likewise didn't respond to requests for interviews.

* * * * *

In the parking lot of 9240 Bonita Beach Road, there haven't been any recent arrests.

There have, however, been continuing checks of the area by deputies, who still report seeing suspicious activity and suspicious people around the parking lot, according to police reports they've filed in recent months.

To the tenants, not much is changing.

"Still have this sort of criminal element hanging around the office building," Montgomery said. "It's pretty amazing."

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 2

jgagnon9000 writes:

Walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, smells like a duck, looks like a duck, IT'S A DUCK. It took years to shut the office in Collier down and just to have them move up the street is ridiculous. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but this case shows how inept the system has become.
Another example just how governments works. Oh, ya it doesn't. So please do not expect the government to fix your problems.

LMARLOWE writes:

I THINK THE COPS HAVE A LOT MORE THINGS TO DO WITH THIEF TIME THAN STAND IN A PARKING LOT AND HARRASS PEOPLE WHO ARE VISITING A DR. FOR PAIN MANAGEMENT.

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