South Florida doctor sentenced to 25 years for drug trafficking



July 23 2005 - They stood one by one, more than a dozen people, heaping praise on their beloved former family physician Dr. Denis Deonarine.

They lauded the 60-year-old Jupiter doctor for being an old-fashioned practitioner who gave patients his home phone number and spent a lot of time with them during office visits.

Near the end of Deonarine's three-hour sentencing on 10 counts, including trafficking in oxycodone, racketeering and Medicaid fraud, the teary-eyed doctor addressed the court and begged Circuit Judge Richard Wennet for "mercy, leniency and empathy."

The Trinidad native said he dedicated his life to his patients, calling medicine "my love, my hobby, my life, my career."

"It cost me two divorces," the doctor said. "I worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I took my own calls."

Any possible mistakes, he said, were unintentional.

"Please, look at some of the good things I have done in my life."

But in the end, the judge had no choice but to give Deonarine 25 years in prison, the minimum mandatory sentence for trafficking more than 28 grams of the painkiller oxycodone. Deonarine was also ordered to pay $550,000 in fines.

Two vastly different views of Deonarine emerged on Friday. Prosecutor Barbara Burns said the doctor may have entered medicine with good intentions, but greed took over when he began focusing on pain management in mid-2000. He raised his rates and offered incentives to employees for bringing in additional business, according to Burns.

At his May trial, she blamed Deonarine for the 2001 overdose death of college student Michael Labzda, who went to Deonarine complaining of back and toe pain and was prescribed OxyContin without any medical tests or diagnostic procedures. The jury acquitted Deonarine of murder and 74 other counts, but convicted him on 10.

Deonarine apologized to the Labzda family on Friday.

Sending Deonarine to prison for 25 years isn't what the Legislature intended with 25-year minimum mandatory sentences for drug trafficking, defense attorney Richard Lubin said.

On appeal, Lubin plans to argue that jurors combined four months of prescriptions when deciding to convict Deonarine of trafficking. Lubin argued previously that it would be the equivalent of charging someone who sells a gram of cocaine a day over a month's time with felony drug trafficking.

"The idea of trafficking is for people dealing in large quantities," Lubin said at the earlier hearing.

A conviction on a second trafficking count, in the amount of four to 14 grams of oxycodone, was a miscalculation by the jury, Lubin said.

The amount should have been 2.4 grams, which carries a lesser sentence.

Should the two trafficking counts be overturned on appeal, Lubin said, the racketeering conviction should also be tossed since trafficking forms the basis of racketeering. Deonarine received 121/2 for racketeering, though all of the sentences are to run concurrently. The doctor received five years on other various charges related to the sale and delivery of Xanax and Valium.

At trial, Lubin argued that his client might have been a poor record keeper who may have made mistakes, but that his actions were never criminal.

Before learning his punishment, Deonarine, whose medical license is suspended, apologized to his family and his patients for the "humiliation and disgrace" brought by his actions.

"I didn't enter medicine for money," he said.





Murder trial sparked concern
among pain specialists



May 20 2005 - The trial of Dr. Denis Deonarine drew close scrutiny in the pain-management world -- first-degree murder charges rarely are leveled at a doctor.

Pain-management advocates feared a conviction would have emboldened prosecutors around the country to use the charge more frequently, but Deonarine was acquitted Thursday of playing a role in a patient's overdose death.

There have been a few doctors convicted of delivering drugs that resulted in patient deaths, since the pioneering prosecution of a Panhandle doctor several years ago.

Pensacola prosecutor Russ Edgar won the first manslaughter convictions in the country against a doctor, James Graves, in February 2002. He thinks a first-degree murder conviction could be a "barrier breaker."

Edgar considered a first-degree murder charge against Graves. "That was an option in the case I did, but, quite frankly, we had never charged a doctor for manslaughter for an OxyContin death. That was a barrier breaker, too."

Edgar said Thursday's murder acquittal might cause prosecutors to think twice before using the charge against a doctor.

"It may discourage others, but I don't think it would discourage all because cases are fact-specific," he said.

Drug investigators took note when Graves was convicted and sentenced to 63 years in prison for four patient deaths, racketeering and unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.

Edgar's prosecution became the national model. He used the racketeering charge to link the different elements of the case, which is more typical in complex white-collar frauds. His tactics were adopted in the cases around the country that followed, including Deonarine's.

"I've not only addressed groups of prosecutors, I've addressed conferences and investigators from all over the country, both state and federal," Edgar said.

Each trial sparks the debate over whether doctors should be free to prescribe large quantities of narcotics to pain sufferers. Prosecutors say they only target doctors who cross ethical and legal boundaries, by ignoring that some patients are abusing the drugs or selling them.

Pain management advocates say there is an epidemic of untreated pain. They say they are under assault by law enforcement, and that patients continue to suffer as a result.

"It's panicked the whole medical community, at least those who were treating chronic pain, which was a small minority anyway," said Frank B. Fisher, a Northern California doctor who was charged with five counts of murder in 1999 in a case that eventually fell apart. "They have stopped practicing pain management. Others have cut back or thrown out whole classes of patients."

Prosecutors make no apologies for going after bad doctors. Edgar says doctors who too freely prescribe new, more powerful narcotics such as OxyContin are a danger to patients.

"The script doctors then become potential killers. Sometimes you get a pharmacist or doctor that is so far beyond their ethical and medical limits, they don't seem to care," he said. "The results are deadly, and it is very, very disturbing."

Pensacola attorney Hubert Edward Ellis Jr., who defended Graves, said prosecutors likely wouldn't be able to win manslaughter or murder convictions without using the racketeering allegations to bring in more prosecution evidence.

He said negligent doctors should face medical board reviews or civil suits, not murder charges.

"I think it's overreaching by the prosecutor's office. I don't think it's a first-degree murder case," he said. "I don't think any state attorney who prosecutes any doctor could prevail on the case unless they have the racketeering counts tied in. That is the only way to get a conviction."

Deonarine was acquitted of 75 counts, including murder, drug trafficking and drug delivery, but convicted of 10 counts involving racketeering, Medicaid fraud and drug trafficking. One of the trafficking charges carries a 25-year mandatory prison sentence.

Siobhan Reynolds, president of the patient advocacy group the Pain Relief Network, said every prosecution of a pain specialist causes a chilling effect in the medical community. "They're terrified. They are absolutely terrified," she said.

Not all pain management practitioners feel under siege. Dr. Lawrence Gorfine, who runs the Southern Pain Center in Lake Worth, is one of them.

"Law enforcement has not changed the way I practice medicine. I am very cautious in general about prescribing narcotics to patients," he said. "I am strongly against any physician who is not adequately evaluating every patient and closely following their medications. This is the incorrect practice of medicine and should be severely dealt with in the right channels, but I don't know that murder [charges are] the right way to deal with these issues."





Doctor cleared of murder
but convicted on 10 other counts
in pill-mill case



May 19 2005 WEST PALM BEACH A doctor on Thursday was acquitted of more than 70 criminal counts -- including first-degree murder -- but he's probably headed to prison.

That's because the jury that cleared Dr. Denis Deonarine, 60, of Jupiter, of 75 charges also convicted him of 10 others, including racketeering, Medicaid fraud, trafficking in oxycodone and delivery of Valium.

He will be sentenced by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Richard Wennet on July 15.

If found guilty on the murder count, Deonarine would have been the first Florida doctor convicted in a patient's OxyContin overdose death.

Jurors began deliberations in the case for several hours last Friday and resumed them on Monday.

The state argued that greed consumed Deonarine, a board-certified family practitioner, after the doctor began making piles of money prescribing potent narcotics, mainly the painkiller OxyContin. Assistant State Attorney Barbara Burns argued during the trial the payoff was so good that Deonarine shifted the focus of his practice to pain management, even offering 6 percent commissions to his office staff if he saw more than 25 patients a day.

By 2000, Burns said, the once-caring physician from Trinidad was operating a pill mill that prescribed narcotics to virtually anyone who asked. Deonarine ranked in the top 5 to 10 percent of all Florida doctors prescribing OxyContin, she added.

"Denis Deonarine got into something he wasn't qualified to do and he made a big mess out of it," Burns said.

At least seven of Deonarine's patients had serious addiction issues, according to Burns. Even so, the doctor chose to ignore obvious signs -- one man lamented his addiction to the doctor, who continued to increase the man's dosage, Burns said.

"These flags weren't just red, they were blazing and he wasn't paying attention. That's criminal," Burns told the jury.

The murder charge stemmed from the death of patient and drug abuser, Michael Labzda, 20, who died of a drug overdose in 2001.

Missy Stoddard can be reached at [email protected] or 561-832-2895.





Physician's murder trial closes

Jupiter doctor awaits verdict in patient's overdose



May 14 2005 - No one would argue that Dr. Denis Deonarine wasn't disorganized and a poor record-keeper, but he's no murderer or drug dealer, defense attorney Richard Lubin told a jury Friday.

"There's a big difference between doing something wrong and committing a crime," Lubin said at the close of the first-degree murder case against the Jupiter physician. In addition to the murder charge, which carries a life sentence, Deonarine, 60, faces more than 80 other counts such as trafficking in oxycodone and Medicaid fraud.

Deonarine would be the first Florida doctor convicted of first-degree murder in a patient's OxyContin overdose death.

Jurors deliberated for slightly more than two hours Friday and will resume Monday.

Greed consumed Deonarine, a board-certified family practitioner, after the doctor began making piles of money prescribing potent narcotics, mainly the painkiller OxyContin, Assistant State Attorney Barbara Burns said. The payoff was so good that Deonarine shifted the focus of his practice to pain management, Burns said, even offering 6 percent commissions to his office staff if he saw more than 25 patients a day.

By 2000, Burns said, the once-caring physician from Trinidad was operating a pill mill that prescribed narcotics to virtually anyone who asked. Deonarine ranked in the top 5 to 10 percent of all Florida doctors prescribing OxyContin, she added.

"Denis Deonarine got into something he wasn't qualified to do and he made a big mess out of it," Burns said.

At least seven of Deonarine's patients had serious addiction issues, according to Burns. Even so, the doctor chose to ignore obvious signs -- one man lamented his addiction to the doctor, who continued to increase the man's dosage, Burns said.

"These flags weren't just red, they were blazing and he wasn't paying attention. That's criminal," Burns said.

Criminal intent is required to convict a doctor of murder and Deonarine never meant harm, Lubin said. Any alleged transgressions by Deonarine would be more appropriately dealt with by the state medical licensing board or in civil court, Lubin argued.

In the summer of 2000, college student Michael Labzda visited Deonarine with back pain and a broken toe, according to testimony. The doctor prescribed OxyContin without medical tests or other diagnostic procedures, according to Burns. In February 2001, Labzda, 21, died of a drug overdose.

No evidence was presented to indicate Deonarine tried to "hook people on drugs so they'd have to come back to see him," Lubin said. "Sometimes it's just bad medicine, but it's not bad faith."

Labzda contributed to his own death by drinking about 20 beers, rum and ingesting several drugs the night he died, according to Lubin. And there's no way to know if the OxyContin that Labzda snorted was from Deonarine's prescription, Lubin added.

"It's sad," Lubin said. "Michael Labzda's death is a tragedy, but it was not the fault of Denis Deonarine."





Jury deliberates Jupiter doctor's fate on overdose



May 14, 2005 WEST PALM BEACH A jury deliberated a little more than two hours Friday without reaching a verdict in the murder and drug trafficking trial of Dr. Denis Deonarine. Deliberations will resume Monday.

Deonarine, 58, is charged with first-degree murder in the drug overdose death of one patient at his Jupiter practice in 2001, and 85 felony counts on charges that include trafficking in OxyContin, Medicaid fraud and racketeering.

In 2001, Deonarine became the first doctor in Florida to be indicted for first-degree murder in the death of a patient who was prescribed OxyContin, a drug used to treat moderate to severe chronic pain. His medical license was subsequently suspended.

The jury got the case earlier than expected when defense attorney Richard Lubin opted not to present testimony from any witnesses. Assistant State Attorney Barbara Burns put on more than two dozen witnesses.

Lubin conceded in closing arguments as he did in opening statements that Deonarine made mistakes. But, he said, the doctor acted in good faith in treating patients and had no criminal intent, even if he did sometimes prescribe drugs too often or at doses that were too high.

"Sometimes people aren't good at things, but it's not a crime," Lubin said. "There's a big difference between committing a crime and making a mistake, or being negligent."

The death of Deonarine's patient, Michael Labzda, 21, was not his client's fault, Lubin argued. He had drunk perhaps 20 beers, three to five rum drinks and snorted crushed OxyContin pills in the hours preceding his death, the attorney said. And when he became severely ill, his friends "went out on the porch and smoked a joint while he died."

Burns told jurors that Labzda was a healthy young man whose only injury a broken toe did not warrant a powerful painkiller such as OxyContin.

"This case is not about mistakes," Burns said. "This case is about the reprehensible and unconscionable conduct of Denis Deonarine."

She pointed to the testimony of people who were once Deonarine's patients and who were given large and frequent doses of prescription painkillers, especially OxyContin.

One of those former patients testified that he asked Deonarine to wean him off OxyContin. The doctor took him off it briefly, then began prescribing it again for him at higher dosages.

Deonarine gradually converted a larger portion of his family medical practice to pain management cases because they generated so much repeat business, Burns said.

"Dr. Deonarine was overtaken by greed," she said.

Burns also took issue with Lubin over the significance of the charges against Deonarine stemming from his care of eight patients out of 2,600 whose files were seized by authorities.

"If this doctor had 10,000 patients and he mistreated even one... he's still responsible," she said.





Trial opens for doctor accused in drug overdose death


May 4 2005 - Jupiter doctor Denis Deonarine may have had good intentions when he opened a family medical practice in the 1990s, but the lucrative business of prescribing potent painkillers clouded his judgment and resulted in the overdose death of 21-year-old Michael Labzda in 2001, according to Assistant State Attorney Barbara Burns.

Deonarine went on trial Tuesday on a single count of first-degree murder and dozens of other counts, including trafficking in oxycodone and Medicaid fraud. He is believed to be the first Florida doctor charged with first-degree murder in an overdose death.

Burns said that when OxyContin -- a narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain -- came on the market in the late 1990s, Deonarine's practice morphed into a pill mill. He prescribed OxyContin, Xanax and Valium often based solely on a patient's word, regardless of whether medical records or tests existed to confirm a diagnosis, the prosecutor said.

Deonarine's lawyer, Richard Lubin, said that as a family practitioner, Deonarine treated everything from cancer to eye infections and that a very small percentage of his 2,700-patient practice -- about 15 percent -- dealt with chronic pain, requiring narcotic painkillers.

The doctor made mistakes in areas such as hiring and record-keeping, Lubin said. But he cannot be held responsible for the death of Labzda, a drug abuser who fooled the doctor into believing he suffered chronic back pain, Lubin said.

Deonarine stopped accepting Medicaid and began offering commissions to people who drummed up business, Burns said. He began dating and living with one patient and hired other patients, Burns said.

Record-keeping at his Indiantown Road medical office was horrendous, Burns said. Medical records lay stacked in heaps, never making it into files. Wait times stretched to four and five hours, according to the prosecutor. Area pharmacists became alarmed and refused to fill prescriptions after noticing unusually high dosages. Though a manufacturer's rep warned Deonarine that he wasn't "appropriately" prescribing OxyContin, he ignored her, Burns said.

"It was all for money," Burns told jurors.

Labzda, a drug user, had nothing wrong with him when he went to see Deonarine in the summer of 2000, but Deonarine, despite failing to order any tests for Labzda's supposed back pain, prescribed OxyContin anyway, Burns said. On Feb. 8, 2001, Labzda was found dead. An autopsy revealed the cause of death as an overdose.

The 60-year-old Deonarine came to the United States from his native Trinidad, where he practiced obstetrics and gynecology, Lubin said. He became a board certified family practitioner in Florida and built a successful practice. Most people had private insurance, but some paid cash.

Many doctors opt not to accept Medicaid since the reimbursement rate is so low, according to Lubin.

Deonarine regularly referred patients for more sophisticated tests and to see specialists, but many could not afford to do so, the lawyer said. Rather than ignore someone in pain, Deonarine chose to treat them anyway, he said. The doctor often spent 30 minutes on office visits and gave patients his home phone number.

"He was a caring physician trying his best to help his patients," Lubin said.

For all of Deonarine's good intentions, Lubin acknowledged the doctor was a poor record-keeper and his organizational and hiring skills left much to be desired. But Lubin said that doesn't make Deonarine a criminal.

Unbeknownst to Deonarine, Labzda abused drugs and lied about back pain to get a prescription, Lubin said. Every doctor has a small percentage of patients who are addicts that are well versed in how to fool a doctor into prescribing drugs. Labzda was one of those patients, Lubin said.

The young man died as a result of his own "reckless conduct," according to Lubin. On the day of his death, Labzda drank 12 to 20 beers, crushed and snorted 80 to 160 milligrams of OxyContin, smoked marijuana and took an excessive amount of Xanax.

"He'd been warned. He knew what he was doing and it killed him," Lubin said.

October 17th 2004 - Dr. Deonarine was to have gone to trial on 11/1 for murder and various other related charges. Trial now postponed until March. Seems that the prosecutor finally disclosed the affidavit that supported probable cause for search warrant. Turns out it alleges nothing criminal. For example, it alleges that doc rx'd OxyContin and that somebody died. No allegation of cause, etc. Re fraud the totality of the allegation was that he had failed to bill Medicaid for visits when the patients had presented prescriptions. I suppose there was some theory that he was taking cash under the table or some such. The fact is, he doesn't take Medicaid.

Judge wants to think about motion to suppress all records seized in search. May never go to trial.






Doctor charged with murder again


http://tinyurl.com/248nt
By Christy McKerney
Staff writer
Posted March 3 2004

Palm Beach County prosecutors are pressing ahead with what could be a landmark case against a Jupiter doctor charged with first-degree murder in the overdose death of a patient.

Undaunted by a judge's dismissal of the murder charge last month, the State Attorney's Office on Tuesday re-filed the charge against Denis Deonarine, this time under a different part of Florida's murder statute -- one that says a person can be charged with first-degree murder if the "unlawful distribution" of a derivative of opium causes the death of the user.

The original charge fell under the state's felony murder law that allows prosecutors to bring a first-degree murder charge if the death takes place during the commission of another crime. In Deonarine's case, the underlying charge was drug distribution.

Deonarine is thought to be the first doctor in the country charged with first-degree murder in an overdose death.

Prosecutors have accused him of knowingly and improperly prescribing high doses of the powerful painkiller OxyContin to Michael Labzda, resulting in the 21-year-old man's death.

Labzda was found dead Feb. 8, 2001, after a night of drinking and taking drugs. The medical examiner determined his death was caused by a drug overdose of Xanax and OxyContin.

Overall, Deonarine faces 80 counts relating to selling and delivering narcotic painkillers as well as racketeering.

A first-degree murder conviction could carry the death penalty or life in prison. Deonarine's attorney Richard Lubin said Tuesday his client is looking forward to proving his innocence at a trial. "He's not guilty of this allegation and he's not guilty of any of the prior allegations," Lubin said.

Deonarine also has a pending Medicare fraud case from 2001 in which he was accused of writing $67,000 in improper prescriptions of OxyContin.

State Attorney's Office spokesman Michael Edmondson could not be reached for comment late Tuesday. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Richard Wennet last month dismissed a first-degree murder charge against Deonarine brought as part of the original 2001 indictment. Lubin successfully argued that even if the underlying drug- distribution felony were true it would have taken place two days before Labzda died. Wennet found the charge could not be supported.

Mary Baluss, director of the Pain Law Initiative in Washington, D.C., called the first-degree murder indictment "inappropriate."

"It will do damage to pain patients and doctors throughout Florida and will continue Florida's mindless criminalization of medical judgment in the treatment of pain," Baluss said.

Panhandle doctor James Graves was convicted in 2002 of manslaughter for prescribing OxyContin to four patients who died from drug overdoses. He faces nearly 63 years in prison but is appealing the four convictions. Baluss said doctors are not responsible for their patients' illegal activities, and "if the state persists in trying to make a doctor responsible for patients' crimes, then doctors will never be willing to treat pain."

Staff Researcher William Lucey contributed to this report. Christy McKerney can be reached at [email protected] or 561-832-2895.




Murder charge dropped against Jupiter doctor in fatal overdose
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-pdeonarine30jan30,0,3447362.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

By Peter Franceschina
Staff Writer
Posted January 30 2004

A judge dismissed a first-degree murder charge Thursday against a Jupiter physician thought to be the first in the country to face such a charge for the overdose death of a patient.

Palm Beach County prosecutors conceded they might have a tough time using a novel legal theory against Dr. Denis Deonarine when they charged him in July 2001.

"It's going to be very difficult," prosecutor Barbara Burns said at the time. "It is a new concept."

The charge Deonarine faced falls under the state's felony murder law, which allows prosecutors to bring a first-degree murder charge if the killing takes place during the commission of another crime. In Deonarine's case, it was alleged drug trafficking -- he faces 79 counts relating to the sale and delivery of narcotic painkillers, including OxyContin.

Deonarine's attorney, Richard Lubin, asked Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Richard Wennet to dismiss the murder charge, arguing that the underlying felony, even if true, took place two days before the patient died.

"If he died after, it's not felony murder," Lubin said. There has never been a successful prosecution under the legal theory anywhere in the country, he said.

Burns argued that Deonarine prescribed OxyContin to Michael Labzda, 21, in high doses without medical justification. She said Deonarine should have known Labzda was at risk of death.

Labzda was found dead by friends after a night of drinking and taking drugs on Feb. 8, 2001, two days after getting his last OxyContin prescription from Deonarine.

The medical examiner ruled he died of "polydrug toxicity."

He had OxyContin and Xanax in his system. One of his friends told investigators that Labzda snorted crushed OxyContin that night, which quickly releases the drug into a person's system.

The judge determined the first-degree murder charge could not be supported and dismissed the charge.

"It didn't occur during the actual trafficking, during the movement of the actual narcotics," said Wennet, but he suggested another section of Florida murder statute might apply.

That part of the statute says a person can be charged with first-degree murder if the "unlawful distribution" of a derivative of the opium poppy, which includes OxyContin, results in a death.

Burns told the judge she would take the case back before a grand jury to seek a first-degree murder indictment under that section of the law. Lubin said the law is rarely used because it is a difficult charge to prove.

Lubin said Deonarine, 59, is innocent of all the charges against him, and that he was prescribing medication with due medical care.

In recent years prosecutors have increasingly sought charges against doctors around the country for prescribing large amounts of narcotics that result in overdose deaths.

In February 2002, a Panhandle physician, James Graves, became the first doctor to be convicted of manslaughter in the overdose death of a patient. He is currently appealing the four manslaughter convictions and his 63-year sentence.

If Deonarine does face a re-filed first-degree murder charge, Lubin also can seek to have that charge dismissed.

He has not raised arguments that Labzda was responsible for his own death.

In September, a federal judge dismissed a wrongful-death suit filed by Labzda's parents against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.

The judge determined that Labzda caused his own death by drinking rum, beer, snorting the OxyContin and taking the Xanax, which meant Purdue Pharma could not be found negligent.

Peter Franceschina can be reached at pfranceschina @sun-sentinel.com or 561-832-2894.





OxyContin - A Prescribing Doctor May Face Murder Charges


C. Ron Allen, a staff writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on May 19, 2001 that Dr. Denis Deonarine was arrested and charged with improperly dispensing prescriptions for OxyContin. Dr. Deonarine could be charged with murder because four of his patients have allegedly overdosed on OxyContin prescribed by the Doctor. Deonarine, 56, has not been charged with any deaths. State Attorney Barry Krischer said he would, however, present evidence to a grand jury next month and seek murder charges against the doctor.

Authorities on Thursday arrested Deonarine, 56, on charges that he defrauded Medicare of $67,000 in improper prescription of the pills, which when chewed, or crushed then injected or snorted, can give the user a sudden high. Deonarine is accused of filing 72 unauthorized Medicare claims, according to an arrest report.

Wayna Marie McCullom, 42, the doctor's office manager, also was charged with defrauding the Medicaid program. She was released Thursday on $3,000 bail.

"The doctor has done nothing wrong," attorney Richard Lubin said of Dr. Denis Deonarine. "Every prescription was based on medical necessity. There is no basis in the law for first-degree murder or for homicide charges. It's absolutely unfounded."

"This drug is legal. It's for chronic pain, and doctors are suppose to prescribe this for people with chronic pains," he said."This man runs a legitimate practice. Let's start arresting every liquor store that sells liquor or every store owner that sells tobacco."

The percentage of patients who received prescriptions from Deonarine is "miniscule" compared with his total number of patients, Lubin said.

This year, authorities in Palm Beach County have linked OxyContin, a time-release synthetic pain medication, to 36 deaths, 14 of which occurred in April. Abuse of OxyContin, which is normally prescribed to patients with cancer and other chronic pain, has become widespread.

Deonarine, the first doctor in the county to be charged in connection with OxyContin prescriptions, is being held on bail of $1 million. Authorities fear that Deonarine, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, might flee the country. A hearing to reduce his bail is scheduled for May 24, Lubin said.

At a news conference this week, state attorney's investigators painted a picture that Deonarine may be funneling money earned from doling out the drug to an offshore account in Deonarine's name, Lubin said. That account, Lubin said, was established 15 years before OxyContin was sold to the manufacturer.

"There is not one shred of evidence that any of the money was earned in an improper way. This man works 16, 17, 18 hours a day. He has admitted thousand of patients a day. The implication that he made his money by OxyContin is ridiculous."

Officials also said Deonarine bought Jaguars and his home with cash, to which Lubin calls "ridiculous."

"He is not charged with money laundering, drug trafficking or homicide,"Lubin said. "The prosecutors said he bought a Jaguar and didn't take a loan, and they said he doesn't have a mortgage on his house. The man had been a doctor for over 30 years, and God bless him if he can buy his home by writing a check on it."

Authorities arrested Deonarine after an agent, posing as a Vietnam veteran with knee pain, visited the doctor's office and was given prescriptions without a complete review of his history, prosecutors said.


C. Ron Allen can be reached at [email protected] or 561-243-6611.



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