What’s next in the Carmel ‘pill mill’ investigation?
By Adam Aasen
When Jennifer Sullivan walked into Dr. Larry Ley’s office on Main Street, she knew something didn’t feel right.
There was no furniture. It looked like they just moved in. It looked, “barely legitimate,” she said.
Nobody asked her any medical questions, she said. The process was: pay the cash – no credit cards or insurance were accepted – and receive your prescription for Suboxone, an opiate used to treat addiction. She said she was never drug tested.
Sullivan wasn’t surprised to hear the Carmel-based doctor was arrested last week in a massive “pill mill” operation.
“It’s absolutely sickening the level that they take advantage of people,” she said.
But her biggest concern now is: what will happen next? What will happen to Ley and his co-defendants in this case? And what will happen to the addicts who came to the doctor for help?
“There are tons of ex-patients of Dr. Ley and these people need somewhere to go,” Sullivan said.
Ley’s bail was originally set at $1 million in both Hamilton and Howard counties. On Thursday, a judge lowered Ley’s bail to $300,000 in Hamilton County and he remained in jail.
Ley’s attorney, James D. Crum, said his client faces the task of trying to pay 10 percent of his $1 million Carmel bond. After that, Ley would have to meet his Howard County bail, which is cash only, which means he would need to pay the entire amount.
The attorney said Ley’s assets have a freeze on them at the time.
Several other members of the drug operation were arrested and have been released. Andrew Dollard, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for Hamilton County County, was charged in the case and was released on bond of $50,000.
Prosecutor Andre Miksha said they are going through the evidence found at the doctor’s various offices and there is a forensic investigation underway on the computer equipment. Both the homes of Ley and Dollard were also searched.
Since Dollard was a public defender in Hamilton County, there might be a situation where a conflict arises, but Miksha said it’s too early to say.
“That’s for each individual to weigh and figure out,” he said. “Almost everyone in the building has at least known Andrew or worked with him or met him, but whether that’s a conflict or not is for each individual to discern themselves.”
Miksha wouldn’t say if there will be any investigation into the political activities of Dollard but local Web sites have been closely examining this former candidate.
Many political activists have urged decision-makers to determine if “drug money” was used in Dollard’s campaign.
Carmel police have said they make no distinction between Dr. Ley and a drug dealer and Ley contributed $2,500 to Dollard’s campaign, according to records. He also sold a home to Dollard for $155,800 when the assessed value was actually $425,000.
Most of Dollard’s campaign appears to have been funded through a political action committee called Royal Tiger PAC. According to records, Dollard contributed $9,209.49 to the PAC in 2014 and then received the exact same amount of money in return from the PAC. The political action committee is now closed.
It is widely said that Pete Emigh, chair of the Hamilton County Republican Party, handpicked Dollard as the preferred “establishment” choice for the vacant council seat. Though, it would be unfair to say that most Republican backed Dollard in the primary. Many chose to support his opponent, Fred Glynn Jr., a Tea Party favorite who ended up winning. Many big names such as Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard decided to sit this one out and not take a side.
Emigh did not return calls or e-mails for comment, but referred the issue to Andrew Greider, executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party.
“There was no indication that anything like this would have come out before the election,” he said. “And since he lost the election, there is no association or connection between Dollard and the Hamilton County Republican Party.”
Glynn Jr. said he hopes this means people will vet local candidates more thoroughly in the future.
Many are concerned what this case will mean for doctors who prescribe Suboxone to patients to help addicts cope with painkiller addiction.
Sullivan said she isn’t defending Ley, but wants people to know that Suboxone is not the extremely addicting “synthetic heroin” that some have described it as.
Fairbanks, the nationally recognized addiction recovery center in Indianapolis, administers Suboxone as a part of a treatment program when appropriate. Robin Parsons, director of adult services at Fairbanks, said there are chemicals in the drug that prevent patients from experiencing a euphoric high.
“I’m sure there are ways to abuse Suboxone, but it’s less likely to lead to overdose than heroin or other narcotics,” she said. “If someone was utilizing medication for treatment of addiction, then it should be only one component of a comprehensive plan for care.”
Major Aaron Dietz, head of the Hamilton/Boone County Drug Task Force, admits the drug isn’t as serious as heroin, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. He said there are cases of people dying while on the drug and it’s highly addictive.
“We treat this drug very seriously,” he said.
One former Ley patient, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Current that he knew most of the addicts in the doctor’s care were just trying to stay clean.
“We all knew what was going on in that office was wrong. But we needed our scripts. Badly,” he said.
Sullivan said she hopes patients like these can find a safe place to get help before any of them turn back to their previous addictions.