Sunshine Pharmacy: Once promising independent now clouded in debt, suspicion

Sunshine Pharmacy co-owner Del Parrish, center, gives the personal attention that his business is known for at Sunshine Pharmacy's Rattlesnake Hammock Road location on Monday, Oct. 20, 2008, in Naples.

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Sunshine Pharmacy co-owner Del Parrish, center, gives the personal attention that his business is known for at Sunshine Pharmacy's Rattlesnake Hammock Road location on Monday, Oct. 20, 2008, in Naples.

Video from NBC-2

— The independent Sunshine Pharmacy was an up-and-coming local company a decade ago with employees offering neighborly help to customers.

Today, the privately held company's prospects are overshadowed by a federal investigation of potential fraud by its owner, Del Parrish, 43.

Parrish may have engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicare Part D, Medicaid and the Tricare military insurance with his mother, Patricia Parrish, 73, according to an Oct. 17 letter that the federal government sent to Medicare sponsors.

The Parrishes haven't been charged.

According to Collier County court records, Del Parrish and his company started facing troubles more than two years ago with more than a dozen civil suits, generally for nonpayment of rent, or for leased equipment or pharmacy-related services. Most of the claims were filed in 2011 and 2012.

Parrish and his Naples attorney in the civil matters, Mark Slack, declined to comment. Parrish also has hired Boca Raton attorney Brian Kahan for the federal investigation. Kahan couldn't be reached for comment.

Like the federal fraud probe, the lawsuits contradict an image of Parrish as a Naples entrepreneur who began small in 1999 with one store, at 5480 Rattlesnake Hammock Road in East Naples, and grew to nearly a half-dozen locations while fighting the headwinds of chain pharmacies. Both Parrish and his wife, Renee, are pharmacists who were at the helm.

Sunshine's business ventures include a compounding pharmacy, durable medical equipment for lease or purchase, and pharmacy service contracts with assisted living centers and other group residential settings. In spring 2008, Parrish said he had signed his 50th nursing home contract in Sebring.

At the end of that year, projected sales were estimated at $25 million, compared with nearly $20 million the year before, according to what Parrish told the Daily News. At the time, he had 65 employees.

Today, the Rattlesnake Hammock Road pharmacy raided by federal agents last month has reopened. However, two of the five retail locations Sunshine once had are closed — in the Marquesa Plaza at Livingston and Pine Ridge roads, and at 80 Wilson Blvd. S. in Golden Gate Estates.

Several of the lawsuits were connected to the two now-closed stores. Settlements or judgments against Sunshine have been recorded.

Because Sunshine is a privately held company, current financial information isn't readily available.

The Alzheimer's Support Network in Collier County, which helps families with services, has heard repeatedly in recent years that Sunshine's stock of medications and other supplies was frequently depleted, said Chuck Pollard, the group's executive director.

I think he grew too fast. He got too big too fast."

John Atkinson, a local independent pharmacist

"They never had the drugs in stock and they always had to be ordered," Pollard said. "That is going back at least four years."

Contract defaults

John Atkinson, a local independent pharmacist who has legal action pending against Parrish, alleging nonpayment on a 2009 promissory note, offers some perspective of recent events.

"I think he grew too fast. He got too big too fast," said Atkinson, who owned the independent Gulf Shore Apothecary Pharmacy near Lowdermilk Park until he and his partners sold it this past January. "And then the economy crashed. (The) Golden Gate (store) was so far out there. Livingston was a great location but you couldn't get out of it."

Atkinson sold to Parrish the commercial property at Fourth Avenue North and U.S. 41, where Sunshine now has a pharmacy at 421 Ninth St. N. and a durable medical supply business next door.

"(Parrish) was on top of the world when he bought my building in February 2009," Atkinson said. "At one time, he told me he had 90 employees."

In early 2009, Parrish signed a promissory note for $155,000 to Atkinson to buy the durable medical equipment at Atkinson's former medical supply business at the U.S. 41 site.

In late July 2012, Atkinson filed a civil lawsuit against Parrish, alleging default on the promissory note with a balance of $93,000, court records show.

"He was paying me and then he would go four or five months and nothing," Atkinson said. "And he wouldn't return my phone calls. That is when I hired an attorney."

Michael Coleman, a Naples attorney, filed suit in March 2012 against Parrish and Sunshine, alleging nonpayment for leased space in the Marquesa Plaza at Livingston and Pine Ridge roads.

"We're still trying to collect," Coleman said. "They agreed to a judgment of $70,000. We are going to try and go after assets but at this point, we have not been paid."

Parrish had signed a five-year lease in August 2006 for the space and the lease was amended in 2011. Court records show he was past-due on rent for $27,000.

Coleman said contract defaults for leased commercial properties became more prevalent when the economy soured locally. There's no set time frame for when commercial property owners decide to file legal action in court.

"It really depends on the landlord," he said. "Some are very aggressive. Others are 30 to 60 to 120 days. It really just depends on the landlord."

A civil suit was filed in May 2012 against Sunshine Pharmacy's Del Parrish, alleging nonpayment of rent for leased space in the Charlemagne Plaza for his pharmacy at 5480 Rattlesnake-Hammock Road. Court records show Parrish owed back rent of $11,500 in late 2011.

A civil suit was filed in May 2012 against Parrish, alleging nonpayment of rent for leased space in the Charlemagne Plaza for his pharmacy at 5480 Rattlesnake-Hammock Road. Court records show Parrish owed back rent of $11,500 in late 2011. The property owner, Lowfield Realty Group, sought to accelerate payment for the remainder of the lease for $355,700 but agreed to hold off to try to work something out with Sunshine, said Richard Weldon, the Naples attorney representing the landlord.

Weldon said the decision to hold off was made before federal officials with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration served a search warrant Jan. 17 at the pharmacy. Agents took boxes of documents and computers.

What's next

For nearly two weeks after the search warrant was executed, the Rattlesnake-Hammock pharmacy was closed.

This past week, it reopened and Parrish has been in the store, according to an employee who answered the telephone. This past Friday, a Valentine's Day sign was on the door but nobody was there at the 9 a.m. scheduled opening.

What's uncertain is what the future holds for Sunshine, since Parrish voluntarily relinquished his DEA license to fill prescriptions for controlled substances on Jan. 24, according to DEA spokeswoman Mia Ro.

Prescriptions for pain medications, stimulants and other controlled substances are key for pharmacies, local pharmacists say.

"I do not see how you can function as a pharmacy," Atkinson said.

Matt Cammuso, with Woolley's Pharmacy at 3761 East U.S. 41, said Sunshine customers are wanting to transfer prescriptions from Sunshine's Rattlesnake-Hammock store but it may not be capable of doing it.

"They are not refusing to transfer, (they) can't," Cammuso said. "They don't have the computers that have the data."

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