MANSFIELD -- A long-time Mansfield physician has been indicted in federal court for allegedly leading a conspiracy in which he allegedly prescribed tens of thousands of doses of painkillers and other controlled substances, and provided them to another man who sold the drugs.
According to a press release Thursday from Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, the drugs included oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and fentanyl.
Dr. Gary Frantz, 67, and Christopher Fulk, 42, both of Mansfield, are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distribution of controlled substances, distribution of oxycodone and hydrocodone, and other charges.
Frantz issued a statement denying all charges.
"I have vehemently declared my innocence. My family and I are determined to fight these allegations and proceed to a trial, if necessary. As a family practitioner, I have always treated each patient as an individual, with individual concerns and issues," Frantz said.
"I ask you to keep an open mind. I know I have done nothing wrong. I believe that once this case has ended, I will be found innocent of any suggestion of criminal activity. I appreciate all the people who have been praying for me and my family and ask you to continue," the physician said.
According to the 242-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court:
Frantz illegally distributed tens of thousands of doses of prescription painkillers – primarily oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and fentanyl – from his medical offices in Mansfield between 2005 and June 8, 2017, according to the allegations in the indictment.
According to allegations in the indictment, Frantz prescribed drugs to customers that he described as “patients” outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.
Frantz distributed multiple prescriptions for large quantities of high doses of oxycodone pills, including 80 mg and 30 mg OxyContin pills to “patients” each month, as well as prescriptions for fentanyl, according to the indictment.
Fulk was one of Frantz’s “patients.” Fulk is alleged to have received tens of thousands of oxycodone pills from Frantz.
Fulk, between 2008 and 2018, distributed oxycodone pills and fentanyl patches he received from Frantz, according to the allegations in the indictment. Over the course of that time period, the indictment alleges that Fulk was regularly issued prescriptions from Frantz that allowed daily amounts of over sixty 30 mg oxycodone pills, over ten 5 mg methadone pills, and other drugs, including fentanyl patches and 80 mg oxycodone pills.
Fulk then sold thousands of oxycodone pills and hundreds of fentanyl patches he received from Frantz to various customers in the Mansfield area, according to the indictment.
The indictment details how Frantz allegedly distributed fraudulent prescriptions for tens of thousands of 30 mg oxycodone pills, 80 mg oxycodone pills and hundreds of fentanyl patches between 2012 and 2017.
In his statement, Frantz said, "I have been living and practicing family medicine in Richland County over 35 years. Many of you know me as it has been my privilege to treat many of you over the years in the office, ER, hospital and I even delivered roughly 600 babies in my early years. I have always maintained my board certification in Family Medicine and kept my patients up to date with my patient education system.
"In the 1990’s, I, along with thousands of other physicians, was taught that treating chronic pain with opioids, in an effective dose, was the new standard of medical care. As a result, I treated a small percentage of my total patients, specifically those suffering with chronic pain, with opioids, in addition to treating their other medical problems and ordering their preventative health testing. At all times I believe what I did was considered correct at the time," Frantz said.
"In 2015, the Federal government raided my office and seized 25 of my patient records. I fully cooperated during the raid and have ever since. Unfortunately, the Government has decided to formally charge me with over-prescribing," Frantz said.
Herdman said the healthcare profession is a critical ally in the nation’s fight against the opioid epidemic.
“Where we see departures from responsible care that leads to addiction, abuse, and diversion, we will use every enforcement tool available to us, including like in this case, criminal prosecution," Herdman said.
Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin, from the Detroit Division, said medical professionals, especially doctors, serve a vital function in preventing the illegal diversion of opioid medication.
“This indictment, and others like it around the country, demonstrate our commitment to prosecuting licensed professionals who flood communities with addictive legal drugs for their own personal benefit," Martin said.
The METRICH Drug Task Force was involved in the investigation, according to Mansfield Police Dept. Assistant Chief Joseph Petrycki said.
“The closure of this lengthy and time-consuming investigation highlights the collaborative efforts between METRICH, the DEA and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. We as a group are committed to holding accountable those individuals who continue to contribute to this epidemic we face in the State of Ohio," Petrycki said.
“These types of investigations are very complex and time consuming for investigators,” said Mansfield police Chief Keith Porch. “I appreciate their hard work and dedication in halting any offender’s actions of polluting our community with dangerous drugs.”
If convicted, the defendant’s sentences will be determined by the Court after reviewing factors unique to this case, including the defendants’ prior criminal record, if any, the defendants’ role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.
In all cases the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
This case was investigated by the DEA, METRICH Drug Task Force and the Mansfield Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Herdman and Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Sweeney.