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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Federal authorities announced charges Wednesday morning against more than a dozen doctors and other employees from several Advanced Urgent Care centers across Pennsylvania following a pill mill raid last year. Authorities also announced a civil lawsuit to try to stop a so-called safe injection site from being opened in Kensington.
Both announcements comes after a deadly year in Philadelphia involving drug overdoses as more than 1,100 people were killed. That’s almost four times as many people who were killed than by gun violence.
“Those who make money by illegally exploiting addiction will be caught and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain.
In October 2017, the FBI Pill Mill Opioid Task Force raided six advanced Urgent Care clinics from Philadelphia to Scranton, including one near Willow Grove. Authorities confiscated boxes of evidence.
The region’s top prosecutor announced charges against eight doctors and three physician assistants with Advanced Urgent Care centers. The doctors have been identified as 49-year-old Dr. Mehdi Nikparvar-Fard, 58-year-old Dr. William Demedio, 65-year-old Dr. Loretta Brown, 70-year-old Dr. Vincent Thompson, 70-year-old Dr. Avrom Brown, Dr. Frederick Reichle, 70-year-old Dr. Marcus Rey Williams, and 77-year-old Dr. Neil Cutler.
The physician assistants have been identified as 33-year-old Mitchell White, 56-year-old Debra Cortez, and 42-year-old Samantha Hollis. The office manager, 35-year-old Joanne Rivera, was also charged.
One of the Advanced Urgent Care doctors charged is also indicted in another drug case.
Authorities also announced a civil lawsuit to stop Safehouse from opening. It would have been the nation’s first supervised drug injection site.
“So-called supervised injection sites violate federal law,” said McSwain. “Normalizing the use of deadly drugs like heroin and fentanyl is not the answer to solving the opioid epidemic.”
Harm Reduction advocates came together to protest the lawsuit. They held signs outside the U.S. prosecutor’s office in Center City that read “Safehouse Saves Lives.”
“We just want people to have the opportunity to live another day,” said Harm Reduction advocate David Tomlinson.
Attorneys from Safehouse have indicated they will fight the lawsuit.
“We don’t believe we have to stop our efforts to get open in the midst of this lawsuit,” said a Safehouse attorney.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office supports the injection site, saying it saves lives.
“Primarily what is going is you’re watching people who injected their own drugs to make sure that they do not fall asleep and stop breathing,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.