PDT Staff Writer
One of six doctors charged along with former Portsmouth pain clinic operator Tracy Bias, may be changing his not guilty plea to guilty. Stephen Pierce, 63, of Gallup, New Mexico, has scheduled a change of plea hearing on Dec. 14 in the Southern District of the U.S. Federal Court in Cincinnati.
An indictment in April of 2012 alleged that dozens of customers a week would travel hundreds of miles to visit the pain clinics in southern and central Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee, and pay $200 per visit for controlled substances including diazepam, hydrocodone, oxycodone and alprazalam
The indictment alleges that the defendants, Tracy Bias, 47, of West Portsmouth, and six doctors, including Mark Fantauzzi; Joon H. Chong, 69, of Coldwater, Mich.; John Dalhsten, 55, of Burlington, Iowa; Marcellus Jajuan Gilreath, 49, of Cleveland, Ohio; James E. Lassiter, 58, of Findlay, Ohio, and Pierce, conspired to write prescriptions for powerful pain medications outside the scope of legitimate medical practice, and that their conspiracy resulted in the death of at least one customer.
FBI agents and task force officers from the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office and the Portsmouth Police Department, serving as members of the Southern Ohio Drug Task Force, arrested Bias in Portsmouth on April 20, 2012. The other defendants were summoned to appear for their initial appearances and arraignment later.
The 12-count indictment alleges that between January 2009 and June 2011, Bias owned and operated Southern Ohio Complete Pain Management and Portsmouth Medical Solutions in Portsmouth, and Trinity Medical Care in Columbus, Ohio, even though he has no known medical education. He allegedly secured doctors for brief periods of time ranging from one day to several years through what are known as locum tenens, or temporary service contracts, to prescribe pain medication for customers at his clinics.
All seven are charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs outside the scope of legitimate medical practice, a crime that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
A change of plea hearing typically signals that a defendant is about to plead guilty. Pierce had pled not guilty to all charges in May.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at email@example.com.