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Healthcare Fraud

Fort Worth Physicians in $18 Million Pill Mill Fraud Lose Licenses

The DEA's massive "Operation Wasted Daze" investigation targeted 49 co-conspirators.
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The Texas Medical Board has temporarily suspended Dr. Caesar Mark Capistrano and Dr. Tamika Lachelle Noel after determining that their practice is a threat to public welfare. Their scheme? An $18 million pill mill. 

In September, the two were charged with operating a pill mill by the DEA’s Fort Worth Tactical Diversion Squad’s investigation into 49 co-conspirators. Forty of the suspects were arrested in what the squad called “Operation Wasted Daze” for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

This was no small caper. Capistrano and Noel allegedly wrote prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, carisoprodol, zolpidem, phentermine, and promethazine with codeine, even though they knew the drugs would be sold on the street. The physicians used recruiters to attract patients from local homeless shelters who paid them $50 to $200 to obtain a prescription from the physicians. The recruiters also paid the clinic for the number of prescribed drugs, and prescriptions were filled in a number of complicit pharmacies. 

Many of these fraudulent patients never spoke with a physician, but instead met with clinic office manager Shirley Williams, who did not have a medical license. Williams would then coordinate with the doctors to prescribe the drugs. The physicians attempted to cover their tracks by occasionally prescribing non-controlled substances like antibiotics and mineral ice. The doctors often prescribed multiple medications at the highest dosages available. 

“By funneling addictive opioids onto our streets, these medical professionals violated both the Hippocratic oath and federal law—causing harm rather than healing, hurt rather than hope,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox via release. “This 49-defendant case represents a significant step in the fight against drug diversion in North Texas, and we appreciate DEA’s commitment to ensuring that all pill mill doctors and conspirators are investigated and shut down.”

Noel is a Duke Medical School graduate who did her anesthesiology residency at UT Southwestern, a fellowship at Cleveland Clinic, and has been in practice in Texas for five years. Capistrano is an oncologist who went to medical school in the Philippines, did his residency in Buffalo, and a fellowship at Brown University. He had privileges at Medical City Dallas and had been practicing in Texas for 22 years, according to the Texas Medical Board. 

“The government’s allegations cover a 10-year period. We will leave no stone unturned in the defense of Dr. Capistrano – who is presumed innocent – as we go through voluminous records released by the government. We look forward to Dr. Capistrano’s day in court, said defense attorney Benson Varghese of the law firm Varghese Summersett via statement.

See the full list of those charged in “Operation Wasted Daze” here

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