Mark Buzzard, Michigan Psychiatrist, arrested – main player in illegal pill mill operation

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Monroe News
Doctor accused in drug ring
By Ray Kisonas
December 22, 2015

Psychiatrist Mark Buzzard

Psychiatrist Mark Buzzard

A physician illegally prescribed more than 2 million narcotic pills during a three-year period in a multi-state, $13 million drug operation that had been overseen by a Monroe man, according to federal documents released today.

Federal authorities named Dr. Mark Buzzard, a West Bloomfield psychiatrist, as a main player in the operation allegedly masterminded by Joseph J. Roe, the Monroe man who remains in federal custody in Detroit on drug distribution charges.

In the 19-page indictment, Dr. Buzzard and six others were named among 33 counts of distributing controlled substances.

Mr. Roe, 47, who in September was charged as the kingpin of the operation, is accused of running a distribution network that officials said contributed to the heroin epidemic that has plagued Monroe and others across the United States.

“The prescription pill epidemic that has resulted in so many overdose deaths in our region calls for us to step up enforcement of illegally prescribed controlled substances to save lives,” U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade told The Monroe News. “We are tackling this problem from all sides: prevention, treatment and enforcement.”

Eight Monroe properties, seven vehicles, a motorcycle and more $63,000 in cash were seized during the investigation, which is continuing.

The original indictment in the case was released in September when Mr. Roe was named along with a Tennessee couple, Donald and Dorothy Cox, who were charged with distributing controlled substances in their home state as well as in Kentucky.

Today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Dr. Buzzard and three additional accomplices, including the physician’s office manager, were added to the indictment, which also detailed the number of pills distributed during the large-scale operation. The original number of pills released by federal officials three months ago was far fewer.

Richard Isaacson, special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency in Detroit, said the investigation was significant. He added that abuse of painkillers is a leading cause of heroin addiction and the reputed Roe operation contributed to the problem. Those who become addicted to pills often turn to the much cheaper heroin.

“It was a very large investigation for a very important problem facing southeast Michigan and the rest of the United States,” Agent Isaacson said. “Prescription pill abuse is a problem we have in society. We have a huge addiction problem.”

According to the indictment, Dr. Buzzard wrote prescriptions in exchange for cash payments. The prescriptions were filled and the pills then were were sold at huge profits throughout Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky.

“The purpose of filling the controlled substance prescriptions was not for the legitimate treatment of patients, but rather to obtain controlled substances that could be sold at a substantial profit on the illegal street market,” the indictment said.

The indictment also named Mary Gettig, who was Dr. Buzzard’s front office manager. She is accused of facilitating visits from fake patients, accepting cash payments and even distributing prescriptions when Dr. Buzzard was out of the office.

Mr. Roe is accused of operating a network by providing a number of couriers who would pick up the prescriptions, have them filled, then distribute the pills to dealers. Two of those alleged couriers were identified in the indictment as Nicholas Malinowski and John Thorn. The men reportedly would transport the pills to Tennessee and Kentucky where Mr. and Mrs. Cox allegedly would distribute them.

During the course of the alleged conspiracy, from March, 2012, to this month, Dr. Buzzard reportedly prescribed more than 2,006,635 dosages of controlled substances, including oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, amphetamines, morphine and others.

The indictment said the operation had a conservative street-value estimate of $13 million.

“Dr. Buzzard knowingly prescribed prescription drug controlled substances outside the course of usual professional practice and for no legitimate medical purpose,” the indictment said.

In addition to arrests, federal officials seized property reportedly owned by Mr. Roe at 427 E. Elm Ave.; 703 E. Fourth St.; 604 Harrison St.; 121 Michigan Ave.; 126-128 Michigan Ave.; 2350 Yax Rd.; 328 Harrison St., and 3853 E. Stein Rd., LaSalle.

The indictment dated last Wednesday was sealed until Monday when Dr. Buzzard made his initial appearance in federal court in Detroit to face charges. He is being represented by Detroit attorney Mark Kriger, who declined comment.

“I don’t believe it’s appropriate,” he said.

Dr. Buzzard was released on an unsecured bond. His next court will be determined by the judge assigned to the case.