Dr. Donald Willems

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Dr. Donald Willems linked to two overdose deaths

Dr. Donald Willems was arrested on prescription drug trafficking and racketeering charges. The 36 year old doctor is from Weston and wrote about 24,000 prescriptions in a single year. Willems had to pay a bail of $50,000 on Tuesday after being arrested on Monday. The Pompano Beach doctor is linked to two overdose deaths caused by prescriptions he gave out from his Powerline Road office, according to authorities.
The pain doctor prescribed combinations of alprazolam (Xanax), Vitamin D, oxycodone and ibuprofen. This was between April 2011 and April 2012 when he had a stint at the clinic. He wrote out about 65 prescriptions each day, which amounted to about 1.3 million units of oxycodone related products alone.
He aided in the scheme perpetuated by Berenice and Frank Turturo, the pain clinic’s owners. As part of this, he had written prescriptions without actually examining patients, which would then be filled out by Berenice Turturo. Authorities found 85 such slips during the investigation. Frank Turturo gave Willems about $300,000 for his work, in just that year. Willems had been practicing medicine in Florida since June 2008.
Patricia Willems, his wife, was present at the court on Tuesday along with his father-in-law, mother and brother-in-law. This was in 2012.
In 2016, the 40 year old doctor was charged again in a scheme with some others. Many addiction centers and sober homes in Broward allowed patients to use drugs, even as they promised to help addicts recover. The operators led them into prostitution and abused their insurance plans as well, according to federal authorities. These were some of the explosive allegations that were spelled out in a federal complaint on Wednesday charging six people. Some of these people were owners of addiction treatment centers in Lake Worth and Margate, and the doctors who worked there. They were charged with scheming to cheat the health care system.
Local police and federal agents fanned out to raid many locations in Palm Beach and Broward counties on the same day that authorities announced the criminal charges. One of the places that was raided was Reflections Treatment Center in Margate. Drug-treatment centers and sober homes founded by 45 year old Michael Bonds of Delray Beach, 46 year old Kenneth Chatman of Boynton Beach and 44 year old Fransesia Davis of Lake Worth were targeted by the federal investigation. 52 year old Joaquin Mendez of Miramar and 44 year old Laura Chatman (wife of Kenneth Chatman) were also charged in the scheme. These people, along with Willems, are medical directors at the treatment centers.
All six people who were charged appeared in West Palm Beach on Wednesday before a U.S. magistrate judge. Davis and Kenneth Chatman were ordered held without bonds. However, Willems, Mendez, Laura Chatman and Bonds were set bonds of $100,000.
Willems could not be reached for comment. It was noted that Willems was earlier accused of racketeering and prescription drug trafficking, and that he was free on bond in that case, which was unrelated to this one. A status hearing for his older case is to be held on the 2nd of February.
On the Florida Department of Health’s website for consumers, if a patient had checked Willems’ background, he or she would have never known that the doctor had been arrested on the 21st of December. He or she would also not know that at the time of the arrest, he still had pending felony charges from his earlier case. A total of eight criminal charges were leveled against the doctor, and this was before the 2016 charges. Willems’ license to practice medicine is listed as clear and active on the site that discloses doctors’ license information to the public.
DOH did not file any formal disciplinary charges against Willems until 2016 (January) in spite of the fact that it had participated in the clinical raid of his offices in 2012. By the time they filed any charges at all, it had been three years since criminal charges were filed against him. The insurance fraud case has not resulted in the filing of any charges against him till date.
In the Broward case, Willems has pled not guilty. The case will go to trial in February. At that time, he will probably still be out on bond with respect to the new charges of insurance fraud.
It was found that Willem had patients living in 353 different zip codes. He filed his prescriptions in a total of 872 different pharmacies. He wrote 27 prescriptions for oxycodone on an average, every day for a year, according to calculations.
However, since his license was in good standing, Willems found work in another business: addiction treatment. The business was thriving because of opiate overprescribing, in part.
It is not clear whether the Florida Department of Health is investigating Willems based on the new charges. So far, the Broward case is the only public action that has been taken on his license.

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