Dr. Willem Ouw of Broward County, Florida was arrested last week for allegedly running a “pill mill” from his medical office. Ouw, 84, faces charges for dispensing a controlled substance without authorization by law, conspiracy to dispense oxycodone, and attempting to dispense oxycodone, morphine, and amphetamine. It is unclear if he has acquired the services of an attorney.
Three of Ouw’s employees, Sarah Shoopman of Orange County, Belafonte “Quincy” Byard of Broward County, and Donna Licata of Broward County, were also arrested. They are being charged with one count of conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance without authorization by law. If found guilty, they each face a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison. News sources did not name attorneys for them.
According to the arrest report, DEA agents raided Ouw’s Pompano Beach medical office on June 15 and seized several boxes of documents as evidence. Using information gathered during the raid, investigators discovered that Ouw and his employees had reportedly prescribed more than 400,000 pills with an estimated value of $10 million.
Ouw allegedly prescribed over 16,000 amphetamine pills and 64,000 morphine pills without any medical reason. His employees, Shoopman, 36, Byard, 50, and Licata, 62, purportedly directed patients on what to do and took payments on behalf of the doctor. Ouw agreed to surrender his medical license and his DEA registration after his arrest, sources said.
“When they’re taking advantage and overprescribing, writing prescriptions with no medical necessity, it’s all for profit and that’s just not right,” DEA Public Information Officer Anne-Judith Lambert told CBS Miami. “They’re supposed to be part of the solution and they’re not. They’re part of the problem.”
The arrest of Ouw and his staff was announced by Benjamin G. Greenberg, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, together with representatives from the DEA and Broward Sheriff’s Office on June 16. In addition to levying the criminal charges, the indictment also seeks to seize properties owned by Ouw that were allegedly derived from or used in the furtherance of the charged offenses. Ouw reportedly owns properties valued at $2.8 million.
Pompano Beach was a hotbed for pill mills until 2012, when the DEA partnered with local officials to crack down on doctors and clinic owners involved in the illegal market. In that year, agents reportedly shut down 40 clinics and arrested 80 people, 22 of whom were doctors.
Despite the crackdown on pill mills and the decline of drug overdose deaths in Florida because of state regulatory changes, prescription drug overdose is still a problem in the region. Five people are estimated to die from drug overdose in South Florida every day.