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The former owner of the Grant County Wellness Center, a pain clinic in Dry Ridge, faces a federal indictment for prescription drug and money laundering conspiracies.
Ernest William Singleton, 44, was arrested at the Washington County Sheriff’s Department Jan. 14 and is charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and conspiracy to launder funds from October 2010 until January 2013.
Attorney General Jack Conway and United States Attorney of the Eastern District, Kerry B. Harvey, jointly announced the indictment of Singleton, who ran Grant County Wellness Center and Central Kentucky Bariatric and Pain Management Center in Georgetown.
Singleton closed his pain management centers in Kentucky and opened a center in Jeffersonville, Ind. following the implementation of House Bill 1, which requires that the owner of a pain management clinic be a licensed physician.
The charges against Singleton are the result of an investigation by Conway’s Department of Criminal Investigations, working in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and Kentucky State Police.
“Illegal pill mills have fueled the prescription drug epidemic in Kentucky that now kills more people than traffic accidents,” Conway said. “I appreciate the hard work of my Drug Branch investigators, working in coordination with our state and federal law enforcement partners, in bringing this case forward.”
In addition to the indictment, Singleton and his two businesses, Double D and S&R Medical Enterprises, are subject to the forfeiture of farm land, vehicles, businesses and other property that were acquired as proceeds of or used to facilitate the alleged crimes.
Search and seizure warrants were executed at numerous locations, including a Georgetown pharmacy co-owned by Singleton and two private residences in Springfield and Lawrenceburg.
While no physicians were named in the indictment, the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure has taken disciplinary action against five doctors affiliated with the Central Kentucky Bariatric and Pain Management Center and Grant County Wellness Clinic.
Two have agreed to indefinite practice restrictions and must pay $10,000 fines for violating the Medical Practice Act, while one physician remains suspended pending final action by the KBML.
A lawsuit filed in Grant County in early 2012 previously had brought allegations of questionable activity at the pain clinic.
A Dry Ridge couple filed a lawsuit Jan. 17, 2012, suing the Grant County Wellness Center, LLC and Singleton after they were allegedly fired for expressing concerns about how the pain clinic operated.
Lamar and Eileen Fowler filed the lawsuit in Grant District Court accusing the defendants of fraud, breach of contract and negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation.
The Fowlers entered in an agreement on April 19, 2011, with Singleton for the creation and operation of the Grant County Wellness Center, according to the lawsuit.
The Fowlers were allegedly recruited to participate in the business venture because of their experience and knowledge of the industry and familiarity of the area.
In the agreement, the Fowlers were promised a 30 percent ownership interest in the center.
According to the lawsuit, the Fowlers “were assured that the Wellness Center was a legitimate medical facility and all applicable laws and regulations would be followed during operation.”
However, when the Fowlers began working at the center they started to notice issues that concerned them about the activities of the doctors and staff and overall operation and management of the business, according to the lawsuit.
“One major concern was the amount and type of medication that was being prescribed to patients visiting the Wellness Center,” the lawsuit states.
After expressing their concerns to Singleton, the Fowlers were fired and locked out of the center by Singleton, according to the lawsuit.
Federal agents raided El-Amin pain management clinic, located in a building next to Grant County Wellness Center, in June 2011.
Dr. Sundiata El-Amin was not arrested.
The federal agents, however, believe El-Amin’s Dry Ridge clinic was a “pill mill.”
Following the raid, the business closed.
Since the implementation of HB 1 on July 20, 2012, 10 pain clinics have shut their doors and more than 35 physicians have been disciplined for prescribing violations.
Conway launched Kentucky’s first and only statewide Prescription Drug Diversion Task Force in 2009 to increase investigations into pill mills, overprescribing physicians, prescription drug trafficking and doctor shopping.
To date, more than 430 cases have been opened.
Prosecution of the case against Singleton is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A date for Singleton to appear in federal court has not yet been set.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count.