“Breaking Bad” Ortho Doc Arrested
Walter Eisner • Wed, November 8th, 2017
In what reads like a "Breaking Bad" episode, Johnny Benjamin, Jr., M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the Pro Spine Center in Vero Beach, Florida, has been charged with distributing, and possibly manufacturing counterfeit oxycodone pills.
Benjamin was indicted on October 31, 2017 after a federal investigation, which began in September 2016, looked into the overdose death of a young woman in Wellington.
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the woman's death was caused by counterfeit oxycodone pills which were found in her possession after her overdose. Forensic analysis of those pills determined they were illegally manufactured as copies of oxycodone pills using furanylfentanyl.
Benjamin was the source of the pills responsible for her death, according to the DOJ. Investigators also uncovered a distribution network implicating Benjamin in the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit oxycodone pills outside the South Florida area.
According to the local paper, TCPalm, Benjamin has been fighting financial battles in court for nearly a decade.
He has also been previously arrested in a state case and charged with felony attempted trafficking in fentanyl, felony robbery by sudden snatching and felony grand theft, according to an Indian River County arrest affidavit. The police had been called to assist with what was reported as Benjamin snatching someone's phone, according to the arrest affidavit.
The paper, citing the federal complaint, also reported on an October 6, 2017 incident when Benjamin tried to board a plane to Philadelphia carrying thousands of counterfeit pills supplied by a DEA informant for $16,000.
He apparently arrived at Orlando Melbourne International Airport wearing his scrubs and carrying thousands of blue pills in his carry-on bag, according to a Melbourne Airport Police Department report.
Records showed airport police confiscated the pills and Benjamin returned with a prescription written that day to retrieve what he called his "cancer medication," reported the paper.
"During my questioning he was nervous and shaking," an airport police officer wrote in his report.
According to a biography on www.drjohnnybenjamin.com, Benjamin grew up in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Baylor University.
He completed his internship and residency at Temple University Hospital in Pennsylvania, and had a fellowship at the Florida Spine Institute in Clearwater in 1997, according to Department of Health records.
If convicted, Benjamin faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years imprisonment to a maximum life term of imprisonment for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance (resulting in death) and distribution of a controlled substance (resulting in death); and, a maximum of 20 years imprisonment for attempted possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
The government emphasized that an indictment merely contains allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.