An Indiana doctor accused of operating a "pill mill" saw as many as 100 patients in a single day and traded pain pills for work on his farm, federal investigators say.
Dr. Tristan Stonger faces 55 felony charges stemming from a three-year investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, which spent months surveilling his Pain Management Centers of Indiana office in Peru, The Kokomo Tribune reported. He also operated offices in Bloomington and Indianapolis.
The charges Stonger faces include dealing in a controlled substance, possession of a narcotic drug, corrupt business influence and insurance and Medicaid fraud.
Greg Westfall, a DEA assistant special agent in charge, said Stonger faces "serious charges, considering the crisis we have throughout the U.S. with our epidemic of opiate-based drugs."
"We charge those who exploit the weakness of addiction and bring those people to justice," Westfall said.
The investigation revealed the Peru clinic was open only on Fridays, when more than 100 patients would sometimes visit the office, a probable cause affidavit said. Investigators determined Stonger spent only two to five minutes with each patient and did not perform any physical exams before writing them prescriptions, the affidavit said.
At least two patients told investigators they were employed by Stronger at his farm near Bunker Hill, where they worked on his vehicles or fed animals in exchange for pills.
On one occasion, one of the workers reported he was baling hay when Stonger said "I'll bet you a bottle of hydro that you can't get that bale up there." The worker told investigators he then loaded the hay and Stonger gave him a bottle of the prescription opiate painkiller hydrocodone that he had at his house.
Another worker said Stonger wrote him a prescription while he was at the farm even though Stonger knew he was addicted to pills.
Agents identified two patients who died from overdoses after Stonger refilled their prescriptions, the newspaper reported.
Stonger was being held Friday in the Miami County Jail on $300,000 bond. His initial court hearing was Thursday.
Stonger also is awaiting trial after initially being arrested in April in Marion County on charges he traded prescription pills for sex with one of his female patients. His physician's license to practice medicine in Indiana was suspended days later.