Technical challenges of running a high-scale "pill mill"

Twin brothers Chris and Jeff George ran "pill mills" in South Florida that helped people get bogus scrips for painkillers. They made so much cash doing this that their employees actually burned the $1 bills because they took up too much space and were too much trouble to deposit. The crooked docs who worked with them were issued rubber stamps for signing scrips so that they wouldn't get hand-cramps.

The deluge of cash became a problem. Employees could be heard on the wiretaps complaining about cash drawers being stuffed to the top. It wasn’t worth keeping dollar bills, so those were separated and then burned by the barrel. Bigger bills were stuffed into garbage bags, then hauled to a bank. Chris George’s wife, Dianna, accepted the chore of making these rather suspicious deposits, although not without grousing that she’d become her husband’s “money mule.”

Other cash-filled bags went to the home of the Georges’ mother, Denice Haggerty, who stacked it in safes in her attic. At one point, says a friend of the Georges, there were 14 safes in the attic, each containing $1 million. Haggerty, who divorced John George in 1988, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

The cash piled up despite the brothers’ free-spending ways. Jeff George bought a monster truck, multiple Lamborghinis and a Mercedes Saks 5th Avenue Edition. There were only five of those cars made, and George liked his so much that when he totaled it, he bought himself another, according to a friend.

Jeff George assembled a small navy, including a 36-foot racing vessel, a 39-foot sports boat and two yachts, 38 and 55 feet in length. He also bought the shopping plaza housing his favorite strip club. The purchases were a convenient way to launder money, according to the indictment.

How Florida brothers' 'pill mill' operation fueled painkiller abuse epidemic (via Kottke)


  1. I wonder how the ‘asset forfeiture’ team settled the fight over which cop shop got to keep the cars?

    1. Aren’t they supposed to report to the US gov cash transactions exceeding $10,000? Maybe they were told to keep doing deposits?

      1. Yea, i suspect they split the deposits up in smaller units. Also note the bit about safes with millions in them. Then again, there is a claim that the big banks looked the other way on big drug money deposits from South Am. at the height of the banking crisis.

        1. “there is a claim”

          This is no claim, Miami was built on drug money. Cocaine Cowboys is a particularly enjoyable documentary on this.

          1. Pretty fascinating article – and just as replaceable with anyone who’s in control of a large share of a black market.  If the product is in demand but outlawed, the insane profits will justify the risks to some.
            ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ – great movie. And the people involved had the same issues – how to succeed w/o drawing too much attention while avoiding the violence from your competitors.  There was an interview with a low-level pot dealer a few days back that mainly centered on that same issue. 

  2. It’s hard to image how this went on so long when they are literally dragging garbage bags full of cash into the bank.   It is also disappointing that so many people were able to fill those bogus prescriptions without triggering any sort of alarms, but probably not surprising given the state of communication between doctors and pharmacists.  There had to be a bunch of pharmacists knowingly filling those prescriptions to people who were just abusing them though. 

    1. It really makes one wonder if they’d had better security measures in place[*], just how long they’d have made it, or if they might have been able to sneak out of the country while the DEA sifted through their paperwork.

      [*]I’m thinking primarily opsec, better money laundering and an out-of-country “retirement” plan

      EDIT: Also note, this is just me wondering as a security guy. This was clearly an awful operation.

  3. “2008, prescription painkiller overdoses killed 14,800 Americans. In 2009, … 37,485 Americans died from narcotics overdoses ”

    2008 + 2009 marijuana overdose deaths combined: ZERO

    1. 2008 + 2009 deaths as a result of stealing other people’s jewelry: ZERO

      Doesn’t make it legal, and doesn’t make it right.

      1. Sure, because there was not one case in which jewelry was stolen AND people were killed.
        Oh, wait…

      2. there isn’t a huge tax-payer driven business economy on preventing jewelry thefts while sending millions of people to jail for possession of jewelry.
        but yeah, good straw-man

  4. I am less concerned about the illegality of this than about the amount of people who live in a reality augmented by painkillers. Why do so many of us need to numb ourselves? What pain or suffering or truth are we trying to avoid by numbing ourselves with television, alcohol, food, painkillers, workaholism, information overload?

  5. To this day i find it hilarious that when a panel of medical professionals were asked about what they would replace alcohol with (if outright prohibition was not a option), they quickly agreed on marijuana. Thing is that one can more or less replace beer and cider with iced tea or other liquids, never mind cakes and cookies…

    1. “Thing is that one can more or less replace beer and cider with iced tea or other liquids, never mind cakes and cookies…”

      You certainly sound like a medical professional.

  6. the thing that gets me is the burning of $1 bills, couldn’t they have just tossed those to homeless people by the bagful or something? seems like it would have been more productive and quite possibly more convenient.

    1. They don’t want to get robbed, have people snooping around, or have rumors spread about their shady operation.

      1. If one of the guys is driving a Lamborghini, I don’t think they’re too worried about advertising the fact they have money.

        Besides, if Lamborghini-guy had driven around, throwing money at homeless people, he have gotten a warm and fuzzy Robin Hood urban legend thing going.

  7. Pill mills like this are why I’m treated like a criminal with state prescription drug laws. 

    1. no.  assuming you are obtaining or distributing drugs under the intent of the laws, it is the drug laws themselves and the business economy centered around the “war on drugs” that get you treated like a criminal…

  8. Not that long ago the drug companies were sending mountains of amphetamines to Mexico. Naturally they came back without any need to wade the Rio. Nobody suspected a thing. Hey, it was good money. Why am I not surprised about this pill mill?

  9. REALLY….why is it that people who have the balls to do something like this don’t have the logistics and sense and end up saying, “Hey we have 14 million in CASH sitting in the attic.  Why don’t we try and make MOAR MONEY!”…  I mean really, if I was doing this I’d made a million and walked away.

    1. I think you answered your own question; the people doing shit like this don’t have the sense to be calm and methodical about it. And it’s probably a lot easier to say “let’s keep making millions” when faced with a reality where you have several.
      That said, there is also the possibility that some people actually do what you suggest. The problem then is that we’d never know about it.

  10. In the 1990s all of  the residents in a small town in Mexico were buying Mercedes & Cadillacs, and they were doing big renovations to their homes. The town had less than 300 as its populations and when the state went in to figure out what was happening, the townsfolk said they’d just found barrels of cash. American greenbacks. $20s and smaller. Turns out that one of the drug cartels had the same problem these two brothers had. What to do with the small bills? So they buried them in chemical barrels outside this town. But rains had revealed them. If I remember the story correctly it was about $25 Mil in ‘small change’. Money had been there a good decade and was probably forgotten.

    This is one reason why a 30% return on laundered money is considered acceptable. Some $$ is better than none.

  11. The cash piled up despite the brothers’ free-spending ways. Jeff George bought a monster truck, multiple Lamborghinis and a Mercedes Saks 5th Avenue Edition. There were only five of those cars made, and George liked his so much that when he totaled it, he bought himself another, according to a friend. 

    He obviously needed to commission the construction of a few custom Monsterghinis. Saks 5th Avenue Editions, of course.

  12. You can open the free papers out here and see ads of that concentration for hydroponic shops, MMJ doctors, and dispensaries.  I guess what I’m trying to say here is CA > FL

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