Surgeon Gets Life in Prison for Role in Opioid Death

Marcia Frellick

July 13, 2018

Johnny Clyde Benjamin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Florida, was sentenced to life in prison on July 6 in a federal district court in Fort Lauderdale for his role in the overdose death of a 34-year-old woman, according to the US Department of Justice.

Dr Johnny Clyde Benjamin. Broward County Sheriff's Office

In April, a jury found that Benjamin, 52, used his Vero Beach office to make counterfeit oxycodone. The pills, which were laced with furanyl fentanyl, were linked in an investigation to the overdose death of Margaret "Maggie" Crowley, of Wellington, Florida, in Palm Beach County, according to the news site TC Palm. Fentanyl is much stronger than heroin or oxycodone.

According to TCPalm, Benjamin was convicted on charges that include the following:

  • Conspiring with two men, who were Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informants, to possess and distribute the furanyl fentanyl on which Maggie Crowley overdosed.

  • Possessing acetyl fentanyl with the intent to distribute. According to TCPalm, "He was supplied by the DEA with 4,000 pills as the investigation drew to a close. The pills were seized from Benjamin at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in October when he tried carrying them onto a flight to Philadelphia. Benjamin was captured on hidden camera taking the pills from an informant and discussing plans for distributing them in the Northeast."

  • Conspiring with the informants to possess and distribute various prescription opioids in 2016. TCPalm reports: "Several people testified Benjamin wrote them phony prescriptions that were filled at various Vero Beach pharmacies. The pills, they said, were returned to the doctor for distribution."

The sentence was imposed by District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas, who said he hoped the sentence would serve as a deterrent, TCPalm reported.

Crowley's obituary stated, "Maggie was a proud graduate of St. Bonaventure University. A faithful & valued employee of Outback Steakhouse for over ten years, she most recently worked as the manager at the Royal Palm Beach location." Crowley had also recently been married.

TCPalm reported that Crowley's husband, Shaun, told the court before sentencing that Benjamin was "an absolute monster." He said, "Our lives were just beginning. She was about to get a huge promotion." Her mother, Margaret Divita, said, "Now that Maggie is gone, there is a bottomless, empty hole in my soul."

Health Leaders Media reported that Crowley's death was among 590 opioid deaths in 2016 in Palm Beach County, a record high. "The number of people dying from fentanyl in their system rose to 310 from 91 a year before," the news outlet reported.

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