By Jay Meisel
TREASURE COAST - When the head of a prescription drug trafficking organization was notified that a patient died, he responded "people die every day," according to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration press release.
Last week, as a result of a lengthy investigation, authorities charged the head of the organization, Lewis Gabriel Stouffer, and 13 others with earning millions by prescribing millions of prescription drug pills to people who didn't legitimately need the drugs, the press release said.
Charges resulting from the investigation included racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, manslaughter, trafficking a controlled substance, money laundering and illegally prescribing a controlled substance.
The only doctor with a Treasure Coast home address, Bruce Jay Kammerman, 54, of Palm City, prescribed 644,246 oxycodone pills, the press release said. Jeffrey J. Reiter, 54, of Fort Pierce, also was charged.
The investigation involved nine clinics, including one in Vero Beach, that were in locations ranging from Pensacola to Miami, the press release said.
Authorities said the investigation began in 2010 after they received information of suspicious activity at Stuart Pain Management in Vero Beach.
The investigation found that clinic and eight others were tied to Mr. Stouffer and his partner, Craig Turturo, both of whom are Pompano Beach firefighters, authorities said.
Authorities believe Mr. Stouffer researched past prescription drug operations and used the information in an attempt to make the clinics look legitimate, the press release said.
"He educated his co-conspirators on how to successfully report their competition, as well as how to report doctor shoppers in order to appear as though they were legitimate pain clinics," the press release said.
"While Stouffer's efforts give the resemblance of legitimacy, his drug enterprise had one purpose: to make money from illegal drug trafficking and the financing of illegal drug trafficking throughout Florida," the press release said.
Many of the doctors accused of being involved in the organization prescribed hundreds of thousands of oxycodone pills, as well as other drugs, authorities said.
On the Treasure Coast, investigators executed a search warrant at Stuart Pain Management, 1146 21st St., Vero Beach.
Local law enforcement involved included the Indian River County Sheriff's Office, the Vero Beach Police Department, the Fort Pierce Police Department and the Port St. Lucie Police Department.