TAMPA — A doctor from Palmetto and three other people were arrested Monday on federal charges they illegally gave patients prescription drugs at clinics across Florida.
Dr. Jeffrey Friedlander, 50; his physician’s assistant, Troy Wubbena, 43; emergency medical technician Carl Ehresman, 42, of St. Petersburg; and Sarah Ehresman, 43, of St. Petersburg allegedly gave known drug addicts prescriptions while they operated at Neurology & Pain Center clinics in Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando and Jacksonville.
Their arrests came after the unsealing of a March 26 grand jury indictment.
Starting in 2005, the four defendants illegally conspired to distribute and dispense oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone and Aprazolam, according to the 14-page indictment filed in U.S. District Court’s Middle District of Florida. They also are charged with 12 counts of distributing and dispensing controlled substances without a valid medical purpose and outside the course of professional practice.
Friedlander, of Palmetto, was certified to practice in internal medicine, pain management, neurology, and vascular and interventional radiology, according to the indictment. Wubbena, of Tampa, is a physician’s assistant who reportedly practiced under Friedlander’s supervision.
Carl Ehresman and his wife, Sarah, are from St. Petersburg. He was an emergency medical technician and radiologic basic machine operator at the clinics, and she worked as an office manager at the clinics, said Steve Cole, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa.
“The defendants worked together traveling to a different clinic each day of the week,” Cole said. “Mondays were Tampa days, etc. I believe the Friday clinic was (Jacksonville).”
The indictment states the defendants dispensed drugs without adequate verification of the patient’s identity or medical complaint; without adequate and reliable patient medical history and without performance of a complete or adequate mental or physical examination.
It also says the four gave out drugs without establishing a treatment plan and without maintaining accurate and complete medical records.
As part of the conspiracy, the defendants distributed the drugs to patients knowing the patients were addicted to them or were requesting additional quantities of the drugs to share with others, the indictment continues. They also allegedly gave patients pre-signed blank prescription forms and allowed them to fill in their controlled substance of choice and dosage amount.
Cole said authorities are not releasing how many patients were involved in the conspiracy.
Each defendant faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of the charges, Cole said.
This case was investigated by agencies including the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Division of Fraud.
In connection with the arrest and indictment of the defendants in this case, patient files from the various locations of the Neurology & Pain Center clinics are in the custody of the agencies involved.
To view the indictment, go to Bradenton.com/news/local/crime-andcourts.