An Alpharetta man and his wife were among those indicted for the illegal sale and distribution of pain killers to addicts and drug dealers at three AMARC pain clinics in metro Atlanta.
Godfrey Ilonzo, 63, of Alpharetta, the owner of the pain clinics; Bona Ilonzo, 51, of Alpharetta, his wife and office manager; Dr. Nevorn Askari, 57, of Monroe; and Dr. William Richardson, 59, of Atlanta, were indicted and arrested on federal drug and money laundering charges for their respective roles in operating so-called “pill mill” pain clinics. Godfrey Ilonzo was also indicted on charges relating to federal bankruptcy fraud, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. The defendants were arraigned Tuesday at 2 p.m., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Janet F. King. The federal grand jury indicted the defendants on Jan. 8.
According to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates and the charges: In 2009, agents of the Tactical Diversion Squad of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), learned that physicians at an AMARC clinic, located at 1755 Lakewood Avenue, Atlanta, prescribed pain pills outside the bounds of legitimate medical practice.
DEA, IRS, FBI and officers from other state and local agencies learned that Godfrey Ilonzo has financed and operated multiple pain clinics in the Atlanta area under the “AMARC” name, including the Lakewood Avenue clinic and two other clinics located at 1135 Senoia Road, Tyrone, and 207 Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta. Bona Ilonzo (Godfrey Ilonzo’s wife) served as the office manager at the main AMARC pain clinic at Lakewood Avenue. At various times, Askari and Richardson served as the primary doctors for the AMARC pain clinics.
Yates said, “The abuse of pain medication has become epidemic and now accounts for more deaths than all traditional illegal drugs combined. The defendants in this case are charged with preying on drug addicts, feeding their addictions in order to make a profit,” Yates said.
Harry S. Sommers, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division said, “Today’s arrests have dismantled this criminal enterprise, which was responsible for the illegal distribution of dangerous doses of oxycodone and other controlled substances.”
The indictment charges that the clinics generated mass profits by charging patients cash for appointments during which Askari and Richardson issued prescriptions for controlled substances for medically inappropriate and potentially lethal dosages and combinations. Askari and Richardson allegedly did so, however, without conducting adequate medical examinations.
The indictment alleges that the AMARC pain clinics constituted a drug distribution operation with very high volumes of patients, many of whom visited the clinics in groups from other counties in Georgia and surrounding states. Many of those visiting had apparent signs of being addicts or drug dealers. The defendants allegedly made millions of dollars during the operation of the AMARC pain clinics, which they used to recruit additional physicians and patients to the AMARC pain clinics, and to open additional clinics under the “AMARC” name.
The charges each carry a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.