Pill-mill docs often avoid prison, but street-level dealers get locked up

In June 2010, Margaret Schoendorf was arrested after she sold an undercover detective 47 painkillers in Orange County.

The same day, agents arrested doctors Roman Mosai and Michael Moyer on charges they were illegally doling out addictive painkillers from their Central Florida offices.


Schoendorf was sentenced to two years in prison for her crime, but the doctors won't face the same future.

In recent weeks, Mosai and Moyer each pleaded no contest to a racketeering charge in agreements with the state that call for the physicians to serve probation — and no prison time.


Critics say the cases highlight problems with Florida's prescription-drug-trafficking laws and disparity in sentencing.

Some legal observers also say the seemingly light sentences for physicians send a mixed message in the fight against Florida's prescription-drug epidemic.

"There's no justification for those sentences given that they're prosecuting these low-level guys so harshly," said Orlando criminal-defense attorney Richard Hornsby.

Florida's prescription-drug-trafficking laws carry a range of minimum-mandatory sentences depending on the weight — or number of pills — of the narcotic.

Someone arrested for trafficking seven tablets of the popular painkiller Vicodin could be subject to a three-year mandatory sentence. Someone caught with 44 hydrocodone tablets would face 25 years in prison.

In Schoendorf's oxycodone-trafficking case, the state waived the minimum-mandatory, but she was still sentenced to time behind bars in February 2011.

Mosai and Moyer were arrested in one of Central Florida's earliest large-scale investigations into suspected area pill mills.

Authorities said Mosai gave undercover agents hydrocodone prescriptions after the agents, posing as patients, gave him bogus complaints about minor pain. Mosai's attorneys have denied he was running a pill mill.


Late last month, Mosai pleaded no contest to racketeering, was fined $10,000 and placed on 20 years' probation.

Not long after Mosai pleaded, the state modified the charges against Winter Park physician Michael Moyer, and he, too, pleaded no contest to racketeering.

In doing so, Moyer avoided a potential 25-year prison sentence that could have come with his initial drug charges. The agreement between Moyer and state prosecutors calls for a sentence of 15 years' probation. He will be sentenced Feb. 27.

State Attorney Jeff Ashton would not comment on the Moyer or Mosai cases or the sentencing-disparity issue.

Moyer's defense attorney, Mike LaFay, noted there are significant differences between the cases against physicians and street-level drug dealers who sell a handful of pills to undercover agents.

Though low-level drug cases could be more cut-and-dry, the cases against physicians often involve informants, debates over necessary medical treatments and what he called "pushing-the-envelope investigations."


"The guys on the street, they don't have the same sort of entrapment and due-process issues," LaFay said. "There's no comparison between the two in regard to legal issues."

Critics also say the sentencing disparity issue in pill-mill cases reinforces the idea that if you have enough money, you can get away with the crime.

Often, street-level drug dealers cannot hire high-priced lawyers.

"You get the justice you can afford," said Kenneth Nunn, a professor at Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.

"For the most part, people who have status in our society generally get better treatment than others," Nunn said. "I don't think that the criminal-justice system is different from that."

Orange-Osceola Public Defender Bob Wesley — whose office represents countless low-level drug cases and none of the high-profile physician cases — said the street drug dealers often get the most prison time because they have no clout.


"The problem is … what do you take from a poor person?" Wesley asked. "The only thing you can take from them is their freedom." or 407-420-5735