ATLANTA - Authorities announced Thursday that 44 people were arrested as part of a huge metro Atlanta opioid ring led by a nationally-known pathologist who authorities say traded prescription drugs for sex.
Dr. Joe Burton was originally charged last year. The additional charges were announced at a news conference by U.S. Attorney BJay Pak in Atlanta.
According to investigators, Burton wrote more than 1,100 prescriptions for opioids from July 2015 to August 2017; many of those prescriptions were in exchange for sexual favors and nude photographs. Prosecutors said those prescriptions amounted to 108,850 individual doses.
“A prescription bottle with Dr. Burton as the prescribing physician on the label was even found with a deceased woman whose death was caused by oxycodone, methamphetamine toxicity, according to an autopsy report,” Pak said.
Burton once served as medical examiner for Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Clayton, Douglas, Paulding and Rockdale counties. He worked on some of the region’s biggest cases, conducting what he once estimated were more than 10,000 autopsies.
His medical license has been suspended.
“He and his co-conspirators are alleged to have significantly fueled the opioid crisis,” Pak said.
Only Channel 2 Action News was there as DEA agents raided Blossom Pharmacy in Paulding County.
“Several of the prescriptions written by Dr. Burton were actually filled at that pharmacy,” Pak said.
Agents examined pills, prescriptions and more as part of the federal investigation focusing on Burton.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said the charges against Burton and seven others, and the investigation that includes Blossom Pharmacy, involve allegedly medically unnecessary prescriptions for opiates including oxycodone, which are often a prelude to heroin addiction.
“One bad, corrupt individual with a pen and a prescription pad can turn into a weapon of mass destruction,” said Rober Murphy, DEA special agent in charge.
Murphy said the Blossom Pharmacy owner has not been criminally charged as this point.
“The owner of the pharmacy felt it was in his best interest to surrender his license,” he said.
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