In a second raid in as many months, federal officers turned out in bulletproof vests and black face masks Tuesday to search a pain clinic and question its customers.
Officers from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spent several hours at Total Care Medical Center, 458 W. Hillsboro Blvd.
The federal officers, plus others from the Broward Sheriff's Office, the Florida Highway Patrol, the state health department and Hollywood police, swarmed the building and questioned dozens of clinic customers outside the business.
A pain clinic less than a mile away, Coast to Coast Health Management, 328 E. Hillsboro Blvd., was searched on Dec. 16. Coast to Coast closed the next day.
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A DEA spokesman would not say if the searches were related, but Special Agent David Melenkevitz did say Tuesday's action was part of an ongoing federal investigation.
Total Care, which opened about a year ago in the Hillsboro Garden Center plaza, advertises itself as a pain management center that welcomes walk-ins and provides a $25 referral credit.
Neighboring businesses complained that Total Care's presence drew loiterers. The plaza parking lot often had vehicles with tags from Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, said Steve Sampson, owner of Fast Signs.
"They park in the back of the plaza and sleep in their car until the place opens up in the morning and then they would line up in front until the place opened," Sampson said.
Sampson said he has seen an upswing in suspicious activity, with people exchanging money for packages.
Total Care hired its own security guard, but "he can't do everything," Sampson said.
Clinic employees could not be reached for comment Tuesday, despite phone calls to the business. The clinic president, Gerald Wiseberg, could not be reached.
A rash of law enforcement actions began in the spring of 2010, when several agencies targeted certain wellness centers, pain clinics and other prescription drug businesses across Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The Florida Legislature passed a law that took effect Oct. 1 targeting health clinic operators who appear to be little more than pill pushers. Now they may prescribe only enough pills for three days, may not advertise that they sell pain pills or name the pills, and must register with the state and open their doors to inspections.
Failure to comply means the state could revoke a clinic's registration and close its doors, fine it $5,000 a day, or charge owners and doctors with a felony.