Macomb doctor fueled opioid crisis in $6.6 million drug conspiracy, feds say

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Federal agents Monday arrested a Macomb County physician accused of illegally prescribing more than 440,000 prescription pills worth more than $6.6 million that were later sold on the streets of Metro Detroit.

Dr. Lawrence Mark Sherman, 72, of Shelby Township wrote the prescriptions in exchange for cash while fueling the nation's opioid crisis, according to an indictment charging him and five others who prosecutors say were involved in a lucrative drug conspiracy.

Sherman was released on $10,000 unsecured bond Monday after an initial appearance in federal court in Detroit. He is charged with conspiracy to illegally distribute prescription drugs and 13 counts of distributing opioid pills, charges that could send him to federal prison for at least 10 years. His court-appointed lawyer did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Sherman is the latest medical professional charged in a prolonged crackdown on illegal opioid prescriptions in Metro Detroit. Another physician, Dr. Frank Patino of Woodhaven, is awaiting trial in a separate $120 million scheme that prosecutors say involved more than 2.2 million pills and one of the largest health care fraud schemes in U.S. history.

“This indictment shows our continued commitment to investigate and charge those who fuel the opioid crisis in this state,” acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin said in a statement. “This case is particularly troubling in that it involves greedy medical professionals who profited from prescribing and dispensing medically unnecessary drugs to individuals without regard to medical necessity.”

Case against doctor lined with threats, exotic dancers

The alleged conspiracy detailed in a nine-page indictment filed against Sherman started in March 2020 and involved Sherman writing prescriptions for pills that were later sold on the streets of Metro Detroit. The prescriptions involved powerful pain medication, including oxycodone, oxymorphone and Percocet and were written for patients who did not have a legitimate medical need, according to the indictment.

Sherman teamed with others, including Macomb Township resident Janeice Minique Burrell, 36, owner of Tranquility Wellness Center, according to the indictment. Tranquility operated at offices on Oakman Boulevard in Dearborn and on Greater Mack in St. Clair Shores and its "fundamental purpose was to issue unlawful opioid prescriptions, in exchange for cash payments," the indictment reads.

Sherman was hired as Tranquility's physician in June 2020.

Others charged Monday:

• Office Manager Angelo Martese Smith, 44, of Macomb. 

• Patient recruiter Peter Burrell, Jr., 52, of West Bloomfield.

• Employee Akeyla Bell, 38, of St. Clair Shores.

• Employee Carmen Gilbreth, 36, of Detroit.

The clinic was cash-only and charged patients based on the quantity, type and dosage of prescription opioids, prosecutors said.

Janeice Burrell, Smith and the employees also allegedly accepted cash for creating phony medical records for patients.

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