Pubdate: Sun, 04 May 2003
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Ben Fields, Of The Daily Independent

Scarred Image


SOUTH SHORE - The doctors who wrote prescriptions for cash at a clinic
in this small western Greenup County town are all behind bars or
awaiting sentencing.

But the impact on South Shore from their years of selling
prescriptions for cash may take a long time to diminish.

Dr. David Herbert Procter, who owned Plaza Healthcare in South Shore,
at first ran his own drugs for cash business. But after losing his
medical license, he hired a string of doctors to sell prescriptions.
The clinic operated as a drug mill from the mid 1990s through 2002.

During that time, the clinic and surrounding parking lot were flooded
with potential buyers who would stay for hours at a time, selling
pills, getting into fights and even slashing tires, according to court

This week, Procter pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and drug
charges stemming from a grand jury indictment.

Two of his office workers, Mary Katherine Dials and Nancy Sadler, also
pleaded guilty to similar charges.

Dr. Rodolfo Santos, whom Procter hired in Spring 2001, was found
guilty in Greenup Circuit Court this week on seven counts of illegally
prescribing controlled substances and may be sentenced to 16 years in

Fortune Williams, who worked at the clinic but was later convicted on
drug charges in Lewis County, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in

Plaza Healthcare doctors Frederick Cohn and Steven Snyder were also
indicted on federal drug charges.

The office, located inside a strip mall, is now empty.

The office sign still stands there along with another that proclaims
Steven Preston as the doctor in practice.

According to locals, Preston came into the clinic after Santos' June
arrest, but only stayed for about two weeks.

Since then, the parking lot that was flooded day and night has
emptied, but the effect on the plaza remains evident.

Right next to Plaza Healthcare is another empty building that used to
house the Kentucky Gold Deli. According to workers at the Family
Dollar adjacent to the clinic, the woman who ran the restaurant pulled
out because of the crowds Procter attracted.

"The parking lot is nothing like it was," said a Family Dollar
employee. "There were people making drug deals right outside our
store; fights would break out."

The employee, who declined to be identified because of threatening
phone calls the store has received from those associated with Plaza
Healthcare, said customers at the clinic would come into Family Dollar
and buy plates to use as a surface for snorting lines of crushed pills
in the parking lot. Others would lay the lines out on their dashboards
and snort them, the employee said.

Since the clinic shut down, things have returned to some semblance of
normalcy at Family Dollar. Business has picked up, and regulars who
were scared of the clinic crowd have returned.

"It's not as scary at night now," said another Family Dollar employee,
who also wanted to remain unidentified. "Watching them deal in the lot
at night was very scary."

It is obvious some fear still remains in the town. Many locals and
business operators would rather not even speak of the clinic.

Employees at South Shore Pharmacy, located in the same plaza as the
clinic, declined comment when asked about the clinic and the
environment since it had been shut down.

The pharmacy was broken into repeatedly during Procter's tenure, and
the store's front door is now reinforced with metal bars.

Business people who asked not to be named said they were robbed twice
by a patient at Procter's clinic.

The clinic's influence has not only left people scared, but has
stigmatized South Shore as a town full of pill pushers, they said,
which means legitimate businesses are often scrutinized and have to
fight to gain a good reputation.

Ron Stone, a member of the South Shore Board of City Commissioners,
said the clinic was "a terrible blight" on the community.

"You could go as far as Lexington or Louisville and hear about the
problems in South Shore," Stone said. "It's sad."

Stone said Procter was a good physician when he first came to South
Shore. In fact, he was Stone's doctor for a time.

"He was a good doctor long ago, but I guess greed took over," Stone

Procter admitted during testimony in Santos' trial that the bottom
line was to write as many prescriptions as possible to make as much
money as the clinic could produce. He also admitted on the stand to
prescribing pills to female patients in exchange for sexual favors.

Stone said residents are relieved that the clinic has been shut down,
and the doctors who operated there have been brought to justice.

"Everyone's glad it's over with," he said. "I think now some of these
doctors will take notice that communities are not going to stand for
this sort of thing. We can't put up with pill pushers."

Greenup County Sheriff Keith Cooper said the number of calls the
department gets in South Shore has drastically dropped since
operations ceased at Plaza Healthcare.

He said the department is still making drug-related arrests in South
Shore, but no more than in any other community.

"You're just going to have some of that," he said.

Cooper said he believes the addicts - some of whom came from more than
100 miles away and from various states to visit the South Shore
clinic, according to records from the Santos investigation - are now
going elsewhere to get their fix.

"Right now, no one has set up to take their place in South Shore or
anywhere else in the county," Cooper said. "I think a good message has
been sent and things are getting back to normal."

Stone said he hopes as the town is "mentally and physically repaired"
from the damage inflicted by Procter and Plaza Healthcare, the stigma
attached to South Shore will also fade.

"Hopefully the name of our town won't remind everyone of pill-pushers,
but will remind them of something we can be proud of," he said.
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