Pharmacist to pay $275,000 to settle claims related to the alleged unlawful dispensation of controlled substances

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SAVANNAH, GA:  The former owner of a Bryan County pharmacy has agreed to settle claims that he and his pharmacy unlawfully dispensed controlled substances despite the presence of red flags indicating that the prescriptions, written by a convicted pill-mill doctor, were not issued for legitimate medical reasons.

Willie C. “Billy” Conley, Jr., 68, of Pembroke, Ga., the former owner of a Bryan County pharmacy and its former pharmacist-in-charge, will pay $275,000 to resolve allegations by the United States and the State of Georgia, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The civil settlement is the largest paid by an individual pharmacist for the alleged unlawful dispensation of controlled substances that has been obtained to date by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.

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“Pharmacists that ignore their obligation to scrutinize suspicious controlled substances prescriptions despite the presence of red flags can expect to be held to account,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Pill-mill doctors cannot thrive without pharmacists willing to fill their unlawful prescriptions. We will use every tool at our disposal to battle the opioid epidemic at each level of the supply chain.”

The allegations against Conley relate to prescriptions written by Dr. Frank Bynes Jr., who in February 2020 was convicted and sentenced to 240 months’ imprisonment on numerous counts of health care fraud and unlawfully dispensing controlled substances. The settlement resolves allegations that Conley and his pharmacy violated their corresponding responsibility to fill only legitimate prescriptions and that they submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for a highly dangerous combination of controlled substances, called the “holy trinity,” consisting of  overlapping opioid, benzodiazepine, and carisoprodol frequently prescribed by Dr. Bynes.

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The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

“Filling medically unnecessary controlled substance prescriptions harms Georgia citizens and the Georgia Medicaid program and is wrong,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “We will continue to work diligently to hold accountable those that harm our state and will use all available resources, including the Georgia False Medicaid Claims Act, to remedy this harm and safeguard our communities.”

The case was investigated by the Savannah Resident Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. The State of Georgia was represented by Assistant Attorney General Sara Vann. The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bradford C. Patrick and Patrick J. Schwedler.

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