In January, Dr. Jeanne Germeil, having just been convicted of handing out opioid pain pills like candy, emailed the Miami Herald and said she would not “obey an unjust and racist justice system!” She apparently was not kidding: Between her conviction and sentencing, Germeil vanished. She reportedly had ties to people in Haiti and Mexico and, frankly, could have been anywhere.
It turns out Germeil — an Aventura resident who ran a clinic in North Miami Beach — had fled to Haiti. After her recapture in July, Miami federal prosecutors say the doctor has finally been sentenced to more than 17 years in prison for illegal opioid distributions and contempt of court.
“You cannot run from the law,” U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said yesterday in a media release. “Dr. Jeanne Germeil was apprehended and brought back to the United States to face justice for her crimes of conviction. She will now serve years in prison for dispensing pain medications without a legitimate medical purpose and fueling the opioid epidemic.” (The Herald reported on the sentencing earlier today.)
Dr. Jeanne Germeil
Photo by U.S. Marshals
Prosecutors say Germeil would make patients undergo fraudulent MRIs to pretend they needed drugs. After that, the feds say, she prescribed patients with an amount of drugs “consistent with treating end of life, cancer, and terminally ill patients and maintained those prescription levels throughout the duration of the patient visits.”
In January, a jury convicted Germeil of dispensing 13,759 prescriptions for a staggering 1,458,727 units of hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxycodone-acetaminophen without a medical purpose. She was convicted on 11 counts of dispensing drugs without a proper medical purpose and faced a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count. But instead of facing her time behind bars, she ran.
In July, the Herald reported Germeil had turned up in Haiti. It turns out she had been living a nice life as a fugitive: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency teamed up with Haitian police to apprehend her, and they found her lounging on a beach in the seaside resort town of Port Salut. She had been living under the fake name “Lacretia Roquel Pratt” and sunbathing with her husband. The DEA flew Germeil back to the States, and she pleaded guilty in August to jumping court and fleeing the country.
Germeil’s sentence appears to be one of the harshest yet against a Florida doctor accused of overprescribing pain pills. In a 2017 investigative story, New Times found even doctors who played a role in their patients’ deaths suffered few legal repercussions. Of 31 doctors who distributed millions of pills that killed at least 208 patients, ten served no jail time and 12 were sentenced to less than seven years in prison.
Part of the problem is that to jurors, doctors don’t ordinarily seem like criminals.
“We’re taught as a society to kind of defer medical needs to doctors,” John Niedermann, a Los Angeles prosecutor, told New Times in 2017. “They’re to be respected; you’re supposed to do what your doctor tells you. You have to convince a jury that this person isn’t really acting like a doctor; they’re just wearing a lab coat.”
In the two years since that story ran, however, a handful of Florida doctors have been hit with serious prison time. In July 2018, Dr. Barry Schultz received a 157-year sentence for running a pill mill out of his Delray Beach office. And in September 2018, Melbourne doctor John M. Gayden Jr. was sentenced to more than 19 years behind bars for improperly dispensing oxycodone.