Deputies: 80-year-old dentist, two pharmacists accused in pain pill crackdown



POLK COUNTY, Fla. - A dentist and two pharmacists are accused of handing out pain pills after deputies cracked down on drug abuse in Polk County.

Detectives arrested 80-year-old Dr. William Johnson, a dentist from Lakeland, and two pharmacists in separate cases involving illegal pain pills on Wednesday.

Detectives said a search of Johnson's practice found 72 percent of his patients were prescribed narcotics without any medical reason for doing so.

WFTV's Mark Joyella found out the pharmacists were arrested in undercover operations.

Investigators said the professionals were using legitimate businesses to break the law. The sheriff called them nothing short of dope pushers.

"It's nothing but criminal behavior in a lab coat," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. "We don't expect dope pushers to be wearing white lab coats."

Orlando pharmacist Kalpeshkumar Patel is accused of selling controlled drugs without prescriptions and providing people with hydrocodone for cash, no questions asked.

"If you are living on the fringe, you shouldn't sleep well tonight or tomorrow night, or ever again because you don't know when we're going to show up and put you in the set of Polk County special handcuffs and haul you to the county jail. We're just not going to have it," said Judd.

"This is the first time we've ever charged a physician to my knowledge with over-prescribing medication that's how rock solid this case is," said Judd.

The sheriff said one of the suspects explained to an undercover officer the real motive was money.

"I make money; you make money, that's all that matters. That's not all that matters. What matters is that you go to jail for that and we put him in jail today," said Judd.

All three men are in custody. If convicted, they face mandatory minimum sentences of three years in prison.