Cincinnati — A judge sentenced the operator of several Ohio pill mills to 14 years in prison on Wednesday, calling him a parasite who fed the prescription drug addictions of hundreds of people for profit and contributed to an “OxyContin plague.”
Tracy Bias, 49, of West Portsmouth, pleaded guilty in federal court in Cincinnati to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
Prosecutors say Bias and another man, Bart Journey, operated several pain clinics in southern and central Ohio between January 2009 and June 2011, drawing customers who would travel hundreds of miles and pay $200 per visit for painkillers.
The pill mills raked in an estimated $6.7 million, money that prosecutors say Bias and Journey split after paying doctors around $24,000 a month to write prescriptions. The operation contributed to the deaths of at least two people and plunged countless others deeper into devastating addictions, prosecutors said
Peter Link, Bias’ attorney, argued that his client deserved no more than 10 years in prison because he had been cooperative with prosecutors and painted Journey as the mastermind.
“These clinics generated money and it was more money than Mr. Bias had ever seen in his life,” Link said. “Unfortunately the allure of that money did cause Mr. Bias to do some stupid things.”
Link also pointed out that Journey was sentenced to just five years in prison after pleading guilty to the same charge.
Prosecutor Tim Oakley argued that Bias deserved 19 1/2 years in prison, saying he wasn’t completely cooperative or truthful.
Oakley said Bias refused to acknowledge owning the clinics. He also said Bias already was selling prescription drugs illegally when he joined Journey and opened pain clinics to make even more money.
“He was not a lamb led to the slaughter,” Oakley said.
Judge Michael Barrett settled on a sentence closer to prosecutors’ request.
“They were feeding the addictions of hundreds of people. The number of pills prescribed were in the thousands if not millions,” Barrett said. “He was exposing the community to what has been described as an OxyContin plague in the southern district.”
Bias apologized to the judge.
“I’m very sorry I ever got into this mess to start with,” he said. “I do hate what has happened not just because I’m in trouble. I do hate what it has done to other people, other families, and words cannot change it, but I would just like for you to know that I am sorry.”
After sentencing, Barrett said Bias and Journey “are clearly parasites.”
Also Wednesday, Barrett sentenced John Dahlsten, a 57-year-old Portsmouth doctor who worked briefly at one of the pain clinics, to four months in jail for his role in the case. Five other doctors are set to be sentenced next month.
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