|November 2, 2011
Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.– Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that seven Tampa Bay area individuals were arrested today on charges of Racketeering, Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering and Conspiracy to Traffic in Opiates. These individuals were associated with JW Wellness, LLC in Hillsborough County, or Main Street Medical in Thonotosassa, Fla, which were both targeted as possible illegal pill mills. The investigation and arrests were a multi-agency effort consisting of the Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. These cases will be prosecuted in a joint effort by the Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office.
“Today’s arrests should send a clear message that prescription drug trafficking in Florida will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I am grateful to the Tampa Police Department, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their dedication to protecting Floridians from prescription drug abuse.”
Those arrested include: Dr. Paul Awa, 59, of Tampa; Wade Leath, 37, of Tampa; Jason Bliebtrey, 31, currently incarcerated; Evette Cabado, 20, of Tampa; Edward Smith, 35, of Bradenton; Trevor Mercer, 29, of Bradenton; and Jeremy Paul, 34, of Bradenton.
JW Wellness operated in Hillsborough County and was prescribing oxycodone to patients who were presenting fraudulent medical records. Dr. Paul Awa prescribed patients dangerous amounts and combinations of prescription narcotics that were not medically necessary and could possibly lead to respiratory failure and death. Wade Leath was the manager and previous owner of the clinic who sold the clinic to another doctor in order to have the clinic physician owned and licensed as a pain management clinic. Mr. Leath and Evette Cabado allowed patients to present fraudulent medical records to obtain prescriptions for oxycodone. Others being charged operated as sponsors and transported potential patients to the clinic.
In addition to the activities regarding JW Wellness, Dr. Awa was also being investigated for his work at Main Street Medical in Thonotosassa. The investigation into Main Street Medical was led by Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. This investigation led to a search warrant being executed today at Main Street Medical, where Dr. Awa was arrested.
Each of the individuals arrested today will be charged with Racketeering, Conspiracy to Racketeer, and Conspiracy to Traffic in Opiates. Each of these offenses is punishable by up to 30 years with a 25 year minimum mandatory for Conspiracy to Traffic. Additional arrests are pending for the co-conspirators.