'Pill Mill' Man: My Side of the Story
Jeff Gonzalez, the owner of Southern Health Management, talks to Patch about the circumstances leading to his arrest.
Updated Friday, Aug. 31, 8:42 p.m.
"I'm not worried about being convicted of a crime," says Jeff Gonzalez, the Tucker man accused by the Drug Enforcement Agency of running a pill mill on Northlake Parkway.
His company, Southern Health Management, which is almost next door to the DeKalb County Police Department, was raided by the DEA in June.
"What kind of operation are these people running? The DEA came in here with an army, with guns. It's a show for the media," Gonzalez said. "They had no business calling the media (before the raid)."
"They made all our patients lie on the floor and put them in handcuffs," he said. "Anyone who pulled into the parking lot, they got arrested for loitering for drugs." He said he feels bad for them. "Can you imagine going to your doctor's appointment and pulling into the parking lot and being arrested? I think they might have a pretty good lawsuit."
Gonzalez told Patch in an interview that he was targeted by the DEA due to his past association with Warren Gold, whom he describes as a known criminal now hiding from authorities in Russia. The two of them ran a car dealership in Florida 20 years ago until their business arrangement turned sour. "The guy was corrupt," said Gonzalez.
Coincidentally, Gold also moved to Georgia and opened his own pain management clinic, called Neighborhood Pharmacy. He then hired a pharmacist named Russell Plunkett to work for him, but Plunkett soon left after deciding Gold was "problematic," according to Gonzalez.
Plunkett then answered a Craig's List ad placed by Gonzalez seeking a pharmacist, and got the job, but Plunkett's license application drew the attention of the DEA, which was already investigating Gold's business. That instigated the raid on Gonzalez. "The DEA thought I was in cahoots with Gold."
Gonzalez told Patch there were no drugs on the premises. "We don't keep any medication here, nor did they find any medication here. Nothing we were doing was against the law." He said they charged patients $200 per office visit and turned away many who did not meet their criteria for prescriptions. "I just want to know why they're selectively closing down places," he added. He said other similar operations nearby are not being harassed by the DEA.
When asked if he had been in trouble with the law previously, Gonzalez said he once was falsely accused of attempted kidnapping and that when he closed his car dealership, he owed large sums of money to business associates. "They (the debtors) used the police to collect a debt on something that should have been civil."
He said Southern Health Management is closed now because the image of the company has been tarnished by the DEA's actions. "It's very hard to find a doctor that will work with us now," he said. In spite of that, he is planning to be back in business soon, with a new name.
"The coincidences, the dynamics are just incredible," Gonzalez said. He is planning to file a lawsuit against the state.
Special Agent Chuvalo J. Truesdell of the DEA's media office told Patch that neither Gonzalez nor his organization were specifically targeted. "We don't randomly choose people to go after. We had information that they were doing things they were not supposed to be doing," he said. "This is an ongoing investigation and we cannot give any more details at this time."