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Pain clinics object of federal searches

Doctors had ties to Scioto, Lawrence offices

WHEELERSBURG — Sealed search warrants were executed Tuesday morning against two Scioto County prescription pain clinics, including one that the Drug Enforcement Administration calls one of the biggest in the United States.

Search warrants were executed around 9 a.m. Tuesday by the DEA, the FBI and the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office. One was at a clinic in Portsmouth and the other at the clinic operated by Dr. Margy Temponeras in Wheelersburg, according to Special Agent Michael Brooks, FBI spokesman from the Cincinnati office.

“The warrants were sealed. All we can do is confirm,” Brooks said. “It was based on probable cause. Because this is sealed (he couldn’t comment on) the scope of it and what was seized.”

Temponeras, her father, Dr. John Temponeras, a gynecologist with an office in Ironton, Dr. Mark Fantauzzi and Dr. Michael Dawes were served Immediate Suspension Orders by the DEA. There was also a ISO on Prime Pharmacy, 902 Fourth St., Portsmouth. This means those doctors and pharmacy can no longer prescribe or dispense Schedule 11-V controlled substances.

All will be allowed to request an administrative hearing to argue that the ISOs be lifted and certificates of registration reinstated.

“Dr Margy Temponeras is one of the largest dispensers of controlled substances in the United States,” according to a DEA press release.

Dawes and Fantauzzi have worked at the Southern Ohio Complete Pain Management clinic in Portsmouth.

As of Tuesday afternoon there were no arrests.

Earlier this year Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine visited Scioto County to launch a campaign to crack down on pill mills that have promoted prescription drug abuse.

Eight such mills dispensed 35 million doses of OxyContin and Vicodin annually, the attorney general said.

“Today’s action reinforces our commitment to putting an end to the prescription drug abuse problem in Ohio,” DeWine said in a statement about Tuesday’s events. “We are fighting the battle on all fronts, with our BCI agents working in partnership with other state agencies, local law enforcement and federal authorities. We are serious about this fight, and we aren’t going to relent.”

According to data from the Ohio Department of Health, more than 1,300 died from accidental drug overdoses in the state for 2009. That is more than four times the number of deaths 10 years ago. In Scioto County approximately 117 died of drug overdoses between 2000 and 2008, according to county and state data.

Aware of the epidemic of prescription abuse Scioto County recently organized a prescription drug action team.

“This region has just been under some sort of evil occupation for a long time,” Lisa Roberts, a member of that team, said after the warrants were executed.

About two months ago, a number of county churches got together to hold Joshua Walks to ask for divine intervention in bringing about a solution to the pill epidemic. Similar Joshua Walks are planned for June in Lawrence County where participants can pray collectively on a variety of problems, issues and goals facing this community.

“There were seven marches in seven weeks,” Roberts said about the Scioto County walks. “They believe there is an evil presence. Today I think we saw the walls of Jericho fall. We asked God to lift this evil from our land. I think today God heard our prayers.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)