Chris George, the owner of American Pain, went before a Federal Magistrate judge in West Palm Beach, Florida for possession of firearms and ammunition by a convicted felon. According to news reports, Chris George was convicted of a felony drug possession charge in 2002.
Mr. George is already represented by a criminal defense attorney and it appears as though he expects to fight his charges. He is presently being held in custody awaiting his bond hearing set for this Thursday.
The guns and ammunition were allegedly found by FBI and DEA agents when they raided Chris George's American Pain clinic on March 3 of this year. According to court documents filed by the FBI and DEA, Chris George's American Pain clinic generated $50,000 in business a day and was over 14,000 square feet in size.
Given a facility and business that large, it is surprising that law enforcement caught Mr. George in actual or even constructive possession of the firearms and ammunition. Odds are that facility was crawling with dozens of employees, patients, and other persons. I doubt this charge will be difficult for Mr. George's criminal defense lawyer to beat.
However, what it is more worrisome, from a criminal defense attorney's perspective, is the criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI and DEA that led to the raid where the guns and ammo were found.
Given Chris George's huge success as a pain clinic owner, it is obvious that the FBI and DEA are looking for violations that would support a drug trafficking case or some other violations like FDA regulations or even State law concerning the pain clinic business.
On the same day the DEA and FBI raided Chris George's American Pain clinic, federal agents also seized a number of properties owned by Mr. George in an upscale residential neighborhood.
Such asset seizures are not uncommon, especially when FBI or DEA agents think the properties were purchased with money earned from illegal activity, such as drug trafficking. Such seizures become a civil matter if the FBI or DEA wish to keep the property permanently. Before the FBI or DEA can keep a seized asset, they must file a law suit called a "forfeiture" action.
In an asset forfeiture case, Government lawyers must prove that the asset in question was obtained using illegal proceeds. In some cases, proving such allegations is rather easy for the Government lawyers. However, in many cases, the proof is not so clear.
I think Chris George's case may be one of those that is not so clear.
While I obviously agree that the pain clinic issue is completely out of control in our community, I do not think that law enforcement has a chance at prosecuting Chris George, or any other pain clinic owner, unless drug trafficking laws were outright violated willfully.
As far as I can tell, operating a pain clinic is completely legal.
While much of what pain clinics do SHOULD be illegal, it presently is not.
Assuming the doctors at the clinics conducted real medical evaluations and wrote legitimate prescriptions, it is doubtful that any real prosecution is possible.
Truthfully, it is still to early to determine what kind of a case, if any, the FBI and DEA is trying to make. At this point it I can only speculate.
One can only imagine that if they FBI and DEA are executing large scale search warrants and seizing property, odds are they have something and aren't exactly grasping at thin air.
However, that does not mean whatever charges are put on Chris George can not be beat by a capable criminal defense lawyer.
Anyway, time will tell. It will be interesting to see what they charge Mr. George with other than possession of a gun/ammunition.