SAVANNAH, GA: A Savannah doctor who operated a “pill mill” dispensing massive amounts of controlled substances – sometimes in return for cash or sex – has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
Dr. Frank H. Bynes Jr., 69, of Savannah, was sentenced to 240 months in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Bynes, who was found guilty in October 2019 by a federal jury on 13 counts of Unlawful Dispensation of Controlled Substances and three counts of Health Care Fraud, also was ordered to pay restitution of $615,145.06 to Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare, and after completion of his prison sentence must serve three years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Frank Bynes poured gasoline on the raging fire of the opioid addiction crisis in our country,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “He destroyed the lives of countless individuals and deservedly will swap his white coat for a prison jumpsuit.”
According to court testimony and documents, Bynes worked at the MBA Community Clinic in Savannah, a/k/a MBA Diabetic Shoe and Supply Store, and at Georgia Laboratory Diagnostic in Garden City, where he wrote prescriptions for more than 1,800 patients. An estimated 51,329 pharmacy fills were attributed to Bynes during a three-year period in Georgia alone, totaling in excess of 4.6 million doses of pills, opioid patches and other controlled substances.
Many of the prescriptions were part of the so-called “holy trinity” drug cocktail of opioids, alprazolam and Soma, and were provided to patients who Bynes knew were drug-addicted. According to evidence introduced at trial, Bynes prescribed the deadly drug cocktail to Medicare patients at a higher rate than any other physician in the United States.
While operating his illegal pill mill, Bynes falsely claimed to work for the Department of Justice and displayed a fake police badge to intimidate patients. Bynes also frequently used his ability to write prescriptions to exploit female patients and coerce them into providing sexual favors. Among other evidence introduced at trial were documents establishing Bynes knew multiple patients suffered an overdose – yet he disregarded numerous warnings and continued to prescribe the drug cocktail on which his patients had overdosed. In addition, Bynes defrauded Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare, resulting in excess of $2 million in fraudulent pharmacy claims.
“Dr. Bynes’ actions are despicable and contributed to the opioid crisis we are experiencing in our state and nation,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “He placed his selfishness over the needs of his patients, and with this sentence, I hope that the many people he harmed can find some closure and begin the healing process.”
Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Atlanta Field Division commented, “Complicit doctors like Dr. Bynes, who ran a pain clinic, often prey on patients who are addicted to prescription drugs. This defendant dispensed addictive prescription drugs under the guise of a stethoscope and white coat, when in actuality, he was nothing more than a common drug trafficker. This successful investigation was a direct result of hard work put forth by all law enforcement agencies involved and the subsequent prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. This doctor will now serve a lengthy prison term.”
“Dr. Bynes is going from operating a pill mill to living in a prison cell. Justice was well-served today,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG). “This substantial and warranted sentence ensures that Frank Bynes will no longer be the menace to society he once was.”
“The opioid addiction crisis in this country also touches the military and their families,” stated Special Agent in Charge Cynthia A. Bruce, DCIS, Southeast Field Office. “Dr. Bynes took advantage of his military patients who were struggling with addiction for his own personal pleasure and financial gain. DCIS, in partnership with this U.S. Attorney’s Office, will aggressively pursue individuals who seek to harm our military members and their dependents.”
“Like law enforcement, medical professionals take an oath. And like the vast majority many of the professionals take their oaths seriously,” said Everett Ragan, Director of the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team. “Unfortunately, there are those like Dr. Bynes who go against their oath for personal gain. Doing so simply made Dr. Bynes a drug dealer in a white coat. What’s worse is Dr. Bynes’ actions negatively impacted the opioid epidemic. I am proud to say that our agency played a huge role in bringing down this monster.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement partners are actively investigating the pharmacies who filled illegitimate prescriptions from Dr. Bynes, including previously announced criminal and civil prosecutions of Chip’s Discount Drugs, Fulghum Drug’s Inc., Darien Pharmacy, and others. Pharmacists are required under federal law to ensure that a prescription is written for a legitimate medical purpose and must refuse to fill those that are not legitimate. Any individuals who have information about illegal prescribing by physicians, dispensing by pharmacies, or other diversion, and any individuals who believe they were victims of Bynes, should call the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (912) 652-4422 and ask for the Opioid Coordinator.
The case was investigated by the DEA, HHS-OIG, DCIS, the Georgia Medicaid Control Fraud Unit, and CNT, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Thomas Clarkson and Matthew Josephson, with assistance from Litigation Technologist Dean Athanasopoulos and Jim Mooney, Deputy Director of the Georgia Medicaid Control Fraud Unit and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.