For many years, South Florida has gradually become a notorious destination for prescription drugs for those seeking them with less than legal intentions. Dealers and addicts would drive hundreds of miles from Appalachia, attracted by advertisements advising them to take advantage of the local areas relaxed restrictions on prescription painkillers. Dealers, addicts, and even law enforcement labeled the well-traveled route to South Florida the ‘Oxy Express’ or the ‘Oxy Highway’. Now South Florida may be making even more progress on shutting down the under-ground industry and cutting off the ‘Oxy Express’. Authorities have apprehended another alleged drug-dealing pain doctor by the name Joel Shumrak. The 66 year old Boca Raton resident is the owner of a South Florida pain clinic, and is currently facing criminal charges after being accused of running a $15 million pill mill operation that is estimated to have supplied Oxycodone to drug dealers and addicts, even reaching out to other states.
Shumrak was arrested after a raid was carried out by federal law enforcement on his Broken Sound home and his business which was located elsewhere in Fort Lauderdale. The Pain Center of Broward located on the 5400 block of North Federal Highway is the alleged drug-dealers suspected ‘base of operation’.
The amount of money from the pain clinic is described by the Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Tantillo as “staggering”. The official stated in front of a federal court in Fort Lauderdale during a hearing that the profit was estimated around $15 million. Federal agents seized around $4 million on the day of the raids, as well as vehicles and other assets that belong to Shumrak and his wife, Amy Shumrak. Amy Shumrak teaches science at Lyons Creek Middle School in Coconut Creek- Broward County school district. Amy and their adult children are also being considered as alleged co-conspirators though none of them have been criminally charged in the case at this time.
Due to the allegations of offshore accounts the judge ordered Joel Shumrak be kept in custody without bond. The suspect is currently being held at the Broward County Jail. Shumrak will be detained during his transfer to Kentucky, where he will be facing a federal indictment that has been filed there against him. Prosecutors said the South Florida-based drug conspiracy distributed well over one million pills and supplied an estimated 25% of all of the Oxycodone distributed in the eastern district of Kentucky.
The Topics of Debate:
- Prosecutors argued that Shumrak was a definite flight risk and an immediate threat to the community. The prosecution compelled the judge by showing that the suspect had access to some $15 million, including money they suspected was being kept in offshore accounts on the Mediterranean island Republic of Cyprus and even the Caribbean island Nevis.
Shumraks lawyer Bernard Cassidy stated in the court hearing that it was misleading to suggest that Shumrak was “hiding money” offshore. He claims Shumrak used “strategic tax shelters’ to operate some of his insurance businesses overseas, but most of the money remained in the U.S.
- Drug Enforcement Administration agents from Kentucky and South Florida also gathered evidence that Shumrak was photocopying his financial and patient records so that he could continue to commit crimes at a different location.
Bernard Cassidy told the judge that there was nothing “nefarious” about Shumrak’s copying of records and that he himself had instructed Shumrak to make copies to use in his defense. In court Cassidy went on to tell the U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Valle that Shumrak has known since 2011 that he was under investigation, but never fled prosecution or arrest because has done nothing wrong.
- Prosecutors said in court that Shumrak had been secretly recorded talking about fleeing to avoid possible prosecution.
Bernard Cassidy again fired back quickly, claiming these were “jokes” intended to make light of the pending investigation.
- Shumrak’s lawyer said his client will defend himself against the allegations, pointing out that the pain clinic Shumrak owned was licensed and inspected by the state in Fort Lauderdale.
Other Public Opinions
Shumrak has been frequently described as a well-known businessman who often served as an informal spokesman for South Florida’s pain management community. He constantly claimed he was operating legally, and even openly criticized doctors in other states who he said were unwilling to appropriately treat chronic pain.
However community activists have picketed Shumrak’s business many times over the years, and many of these people even blame him and his employees for the drug-related deaths of at least two people, and report that they were delighted and relieved to hear of his arrest. Some hope that this is just the beginning of a shift in the direction the area is going as far as drug law enforcement. Investigators said Shumrak organized the conspiracy in connection with a Georgia-based doctor between June of 2008 and May of this year when the grand jury indictment was eventually issued. If convicted of the drug distribution and money-laundering conspiracy charges, Shumrak could face over 20 years in federal prison.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135