BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- An Augusta physician who worked 14 days at a Brunswick pill mill will serve five years of probation during which he is prohibited from practicing medicine or prescribing drugs.
Bruce Tetalman, 68, pleaded guilty in October to a single misdemeanor charge of illegally prescribing drugs at Brunswick Wellness, a pain clinic that existed only to take cash payments to prescribe painkillers to those who sold them or to addicts, trial evidence showed. Tetalman was originally one of three physicians indicted in numerous counts — 38 in his case — on charges of conspiracy and prescribing narcotic painkillers and other drugs for no legitimate medial purpose.
In sentencing Tetalman, Chief U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood refused a request from his lawyer David N. Ghazi that she limit the sentence to one to two years’ probation.
With the shorter probation, there remained a chance that Tetalman, who has a variety of medical problems, could return to the practice of medicine, Ghazi said.
Wood said that she wouldn’t consider anything less than five years’ probation and described the plea deal with the government as generous.
In retrospect, Tetalman should have done what other physicians did when they recognized Brunswick Wellness as a pill mill; he should have left after just a few days, Ghazi said.
“He didn’t do that,’’ Ghazi said. “That’s why we’re in court today.”
Tetalman, who uses a wheeled walker, agreed and told Wood that after several days, he realized “it was an addiction clinic ... I should have quit. That’s the bottom line.”
He stayed because of a threat from PH Staffing, which had placed him at the clinic under contract, to blackball him, Tetalman said.
“I feared I would never work again,’’ he said.
He told Wood that Brunswick Wellness office manager Natalie Anderson rebuffed all his suggestions to wean addicted patients.
“She was not interesting in helping people but in having patients return,’’ he said.
Tetalman was the fourth person to be sentenced in the operation of the clinic.
Owner Ronald R. Colandrea Jr. is serving seven years in prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge and Anderson is serving five years. Physician Dennis Momah, who asserted he also tried to wean patients from oxycodone and other painkillers, is serving three years.
Colandrea opened the clinic in Brunswick after changes in Florida law made it impossible for him to operate another he owned in Jacksonville.
The defendant likely to get the toughest sentence is Cleveland Enmon Jr., who was convicted of 90 counts in December of illegally dispensing drugs at Brunswick Wellness and another clinic he owned and operated in Jesup.
Anderson testified during Enmon’s trial, that unlike Momah, Enmon gave patients what they asked for and that kept them coming back and paying cash.
Enmon represented himself in the December trial, ignoring the advice of his court-appointed lawyer, Steven L. Beauvais, who sat beside him. He did ask Wood to allow Beauvais to file an appeal on his behalf.
Beauvais filed the appeal Dec. 23, and Wood instructed him to file a brief in support of the motion, which is routine. Beauvais has since told the court that Enmon didn’t want him to file a brief.
Enmon’s sentencing likely remains several months away.