DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of Florida

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Benjamin G. Greenberg
, United States Attorney

Vero Beach Orthopedic Surgeon Charged in Drug Conspiracy Resulting in Death

An orthopedic surgeon practicing in Vero Beach, Florida, was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance which resulted in death, aiding and abetting the distribution of a controlled substance which resulted in death, and attempted possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

 

Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Adolphus P. Wright, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, Peter J. Forcelli, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Office, Justin D. Green, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), Dave Aronberg, State Attorney, Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, Bruce Colton, State Attorney for the 19th Judicial Circuit, Ric Bradshaw, Sheriff, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), Deryl Loar, Sheriff, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, and Renee Purden, Chief, Orlando Melbourne Airport Police Department, made the announcement.

 

On October 31, 2017, Johnny Clyde Benjamin, Jr., M.D., an orthopedic surgeon practicing in Vero Beach, Florida, was indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in West Palm Beach, Florida, on federal felony charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance (resulting in death), in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C), and 846; aiding and abetting the distribution of a controlled substance which resulted in death, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C), and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2; and, attempted possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C), and 846.

 

These charges were brought as a result of an opioid and furanylfentanyl (FUF) investigation that began in September 2016, in connection with the overdose death of a young woman  who resided in Wellington, Florida. The PBSO PBNTF suspected the overdose death of decedent as having resulted from counterfeit oxycodone pills which were found in decedent’s possession following her overdose. Forensic analysis of those pills determined they had been illicitly manufactured as copies of oxycodone pills -- using FUF, an extremely powerful synthetic opioid many times more powerful than street level heroin or oxycodone – as the active ingredient.

 

Toxicology analysis conducted by the Office of the District Medical Examiner of Palm Beach County attributed the cause of decedent’s death to the fentanyl analog FUF in its autopsy report. Ultimately, an extensive investigation led to Dr. Benjamin as the source of the FUF pills responsible for decedent’s death. Investigators also uncovered a distribution network implicating Dr. Benjamin in the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit oxycodone pills outside the South Florida area.

 

If convicted, Dr. Benjamin faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years’ imprisonment to a maximum life term of imprisonment for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance (resulting in death) and distribution of a controlled substance (resulting in death); and, a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment for attempted possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.

 

This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

 

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of DEA, ATF, FDA-OCI, PBSO, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, and Orlando Melbourne Airport Police Department. Mr. Greenberg also thanked the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office and State Attorney’s Office for the 19th Judicial Circuit for their assistance.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John McMillian. 

 

An indictment merely contains allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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Field Division: Miami Field Division