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Texas man gets 9 years for role in Portland pill mill

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A Texas man who helped run an illegal pill mill in Portland, recruiting customers from Narcotics Anonymous meetings and others from a homeless shelter, has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison.
 
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports 56-year-old Osasuyi Idumwonyi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute or dispense Oxycodone and was sentenced Monday.
 
Idumwonyi and nurse practitioner Julie DeMille opened the Fusion Wellness Clinic in January 2015. Both were arrested in July 2016.
 
Prosecutors say the clinic had no business bank account and didn't report wages to authorities.
 
Prosecutors say Idumwonyi commuted from Houston to assist DeMille in running the Portland clinic. DeMille was sentenced in March to four years in prison.
 
Idumwonyi said in court he could have used "better judgment," saying he was led astray by a desire to help a former girlfriend who was addicted.

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News release from U.S. Attorney's office:

PORTLAND, Ore.—Osasuyi Kenneth Idumwonyi, 58, of Houston, Texas was sentenced today to 108 months in federal prison and three years' supervised release for illegally distributing opioids.

According to court documents, in January 2015, Idumwonyi along with codefendant and former nurse practitioner Julie Ann DeMille opened the Fusion Wellness Clinic on Southeast 122nd Avenue in Portland. From the clinic's opening until July 2016, DeMille illegally wrote thousands of prescriptions for opioids including oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Idumwonyi has a history of operating medical clinics purporting to offer legitimate pain management services. His earliest clinic was started in 2009 in Houston, Texas. To maintain an appearance of legitimacy, Idumwonyi would employ physicians or nurse practitioners who were willing to illegally prescribe controlled substances in a manner that would not draw the attention of law enforcement or state regulators.

Idumwonyi and DeMille first met in late 2010 or early 2011. A mutual acquaintance with healthcare industry experience knew of DeMille as someone who willing to write illegal prescriptions. At the time, DeMille lived in the Houston area and was licensed to dispense controlled substances by the State of Texas.

Idumwonyi hired DeMille after interviewing her about her willingness to write prescriptions for a specific combination of controlled substances that were in demand at the time in Houston. Idumwonyi and DeMille worked together at his clinics in Houston from early 2011 to mid-2014.

As early as 2013, DeMille began planning a move from Houston, Texas to Portland. She was attracted to Oregon where licensed nurse practitioners can write prescriptions without the oversight and approval of a physician. She moved to Portland in 2014 and was hired by a publicly funded, county health clinic. From the beginning, DeMille planned to subsidize her county income by operating an illegal opioid pill mill.

After DeMille arranged to lease an office for newly-created Fusion Wellness Clinic, Idumwonyi drove a moving truck from Houston to Portland with the equipment from their last pill mill. Idumwonyi chose not move to Oregon and instead made plans to commute between Houston and Portland each week.

From January 2015 to his arrest in July 2016, Idumwonyi served as the gatekeeper, office manager and enforcer for the Fusion Wellness Clinic. He oversaw the recruitment of new patients, reviewed intake paperwork, collected payments, coordinated with patients and DeMille to ensure the patients received the drugs they were seeking and supervised the clinic's two other employees. Idumwonyi's patient-recruiting efforts included visiting a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and a homeless shelter in search of people susceptible to opiate addiction.

Idumwonyi eventually began to require some patients to kick back a portion of their prescribed pills to him for the "privilege" of returning to the clinic for additional prescriptions. He also required other patients to sell him a portion of their oxycodone pills, which he gave to his girlfriend, who was heavily addicted to the drug.

Idumwonyi and DeMille split the clinic's cash proceeds. In a typical day at the clinic, DeMille saw up to 20 patients, charging each $200 in cash. In 2015, the clinic generated at least $388,000 in revenue. In 2015 alone, according to data from the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, DeMille wrote more than 1,940 prescriptions for controlled substances. Together, these prescriptions resulted in the distribution of more than 219,000 pills, 96.7% of which were opioids.

Idumwonyi pleaded guilty on February 28, 2017 to conspiring to distribute or dispense and possessing with intent to distribute or dispense oxycodone and hydrocodone.

During sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Jones ordered Idumwonyi to pay $294,000 to satisfy a forfeiture money judgement, representing illegal proceeds from the clinic that were traced to Idumwonyi's bank accounts.

Codefendant DeMille was sentenced on March 26, 2019 to four years in federal prison for illegally distributing prescription opioids, filing a false tax return and lying to federal agents.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and Portland Police Bureau. It was prosecuted by Thomas S. Ratcliffe and Donna Brecker Maddux, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.

Drug abuse affects communities across the nation, and opioid abuse continues to be particularly devastating. The CDC reports that from 1999 to 2016, more than 630,000 people have died from a drug overdoses. In 2016, 66% of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury or death in the United States.

In Oregon, the total number of deaths related to drug use increased 11 percent between from 2013 to 2017, with 546 known drug related deaths in 2017. Nearly half of all prescriptions for controlled substances filled at Oregon retail pharmacies in 2017 were for opioids. Oregon has one of the highest rates of prescription opioid misuse in the country, with an average of three deaths every week from prescription opioid overdose.

If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, please call the Lines for Life substance abuse helpline at 1-800-923-4357 or visit www.linesforlife.org. Phone support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also text "RecoveryNow" to 839863 between 8am and 11pm Pacific Time daily.


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