Prosecutors say doctors' firms operated as a 'prescription mill'

The physician and chiropractor received hefty fines and sentences.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Despite a lengthy trial and even lengthier prison sentences, Drs. Philip Wagman and Thomas Wilkins still show little remorse.
Wagman, a physician, and Wilkins, a chiropractor, were both convicted of 19 counts of violating the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act and one count each of conspiracy to violate the state drug act. Wagman also was convicted of flight to avoid apprehension.
Both men were handed state prison sentences and hefty fines on Friday by Judge J. Craig Cox of Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.
"This was a prescription mill," said Jeffrey Baxter, senior deputy attorney general, during Dr. Wagman's sentencing. "His intent was to make money. He was a drug dealer that hid behind his diploma and walls of his doctor's office."
Wagman and Wilkins operated Work-Med and Chiro-Med at 2017 W. State St. in Union Township, which was raided by police in 2003. They were charged the next year.
Patients were required to first visit the chiropractor and pay a $25 fee. They could then visit Wagman and another doctor for a larger fee.
Baxter said Wagman, 48, wrote prescriptions for close to 650 pills a day for OxyContin and other prescription narcotics and saw 80 to 120 patients a day.
Cox sentenced Wagman to 19 to 45 years in prison and fines of more than $845,000.
"This sentence, in effect, puts the defendant under the control of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the remainder of his natural life," Cox said.
Maintaining innocence
In a prepared statement before his sentencing, Wagman expressed extreme remorse for his actions but then went on to blame state narcotics officers, local pharmacies and others that he contends he contacted to weed out drug addicts from his practice.
He went on to say that he wanted to create a statewide model of cooperation between doctors, pharmacies, drug treatment centers and authorities to deal with drug addiction.
"I am the only physician in the state to push for a narcotics management program. My failure is a lack of leadership. Please give me leniency," Wagman said.
Judge Cox wasn't buying his explanation.
"The defendant thought he was smarter than the rest by drawing up an elaborate contract [for patients to sign]. It seemed to contradict the evidence. People were carpooling to his office from Ohio, Erie and Pittsburgh. There was no physical therapy, no other treatments other than to prescribe OxyContin," the judge said.
Judge Cox went on to say that evidence was presented showing people would be prescribed two weeks' worth of drugs and come back two or three days later for another prescription.
"This casts a shadow over all good doctors who work and answer calls in the middle of the night and weekends to help people," Cox said.
The judge offered Wilkins more leniency, sentencing him to a total of nine to 30 years in prison and fines of about $835,000.
"The court finds the defendant culpable, but does not find your actions as severe as Dr. Wagman's," the judge said.
Bail request denied
He denied Wilkins' request to continue to be released on bail until his appeals are ended. Wilkins had asked for release to take care of his three children and undergo treatment for a shoulder injury.
In his statement to the judge before sentencing, Wilkins still denied his involvement.
"I still can't believe I'm standing here. I feel I should have had my own trial. I think they used a lot of evidence against Wagman against me," he said.
One jury trial was held for Wilkins and Wagman, and it lasted more than four weeks. Another physician charged at the same time, William Mangino, had his case separated and is expected to go to trial next month.
Wilkins' attorney, Carmen Lamancusa, said he intends to appeal Wilkins' conviction.
Wilkins, 42, was given credit for 10 days served in county jail and Wagman was given credit for 114 days served. Both were ordered to share the cost of the investigation by the attorney general's office, $17,604.
Both men were taken to Albion State Prison on Friday for processing.