TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) — A federal court has put a temporary restraining order on a Tarpon Springs pain management clinic linked to several criminal accusations.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Phoenix Medical Management Care Centers Inc., its employees, and a doctor will be prohibited from “administering, dispensing or distributing any controlled substances, including issuing prescriptions for opioids” following the arrests of former manager Christopher Ferguson and pediatrician Dr. Vivian Herrero.
In January, Christopher Ferguson was arrested on an extortion charge after he was accused of offering to “fix” a woman’s positive drug screen in exchange for sexual favors. He was later charged with five counts of extortion and two counts of attempted sexual battery involving five other victims.
Authorities said Ferguson controlled protocol that should have been handled by a licensed doctor, which included drug tests and labeling patients as high risk.
Friday, Herrero was booked on accessory charges after she allegedly assisted the former manager by presenting herself as a pain management doctor and prescribing them opioids while Ferguson controlled their care, according to arrest reports.
The reports said multiple victims showed Herrero recordings of Ferguson’s misconduct and negative drug tests from other laboratories, but the doctor allegedly allowed the extortion to continue.
An unsealed federal complaint also mentioned that two patients died soon after getting prescribed opioids by Herrero, with drug toxicity allegedly being a factor in their deaths.
“Medical clinics that facilitate the unlawful use of opioids and other controlled substances cannot continue to operate,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will use all available tools to stop the illegal distribution of potentially dangerous prescription drugs.”
The criminal complaint also alleged that the clinic worked with unqualified physicians and that Christopher Ferguson was previously convicted on state drug trafficking charges.
In addition to the criminal allegations, the document pushed for civil penalties and permanent bans for all the defendants — including Christopher Ferguson’s wife, Patricia Ferguson, who continued to run the clinic.