GULFPORT -- A Louisiana woman who headed up operations at a Waveland pain-management clinic has been sentenced to five years in prison and fined $5,000 for her role in the prescription drug-running operation.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden also ordered Peggy Laporte, 59, to pay $35,977 in restitution and to forfeit her interest in property and a home at 1405 Pier Ave. in Metairie.
She pleaded guilty in October to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance outside the scope of a medical practice.
Her attorney spoke on her behalf before she was sentenced. "She would like to extend again her apologies for her role and responsibility in this offense," Karl Koch said, "and she does take responsibility,"
Laporte's husband, Ronnie Laporte, was among those in court to support her. Afterward, he said he and his wife had simply been "betrayed by a friend."
He said he was talking about Dr. Steve Morris, 56, who was also charged in the case that centered on activity at Total Health Solutions Inc. The business operated as a free clinic a couple of days a week and as a pain-management clinic three days a week.
Federal agents arrested Laporte, Morris and Brittany Spikes, 29, during a May 13 raid at the Waveland clinic. All three faced charges spelled out in a 57-count indictment.
"He's a narcissist and a con artist," Ronnie Laporte said of Morris. "He lied his way all through this. They locked him up for eight months and then he finally broke and told (investigators) what they wanted to hear. She worked at the clinic."
Ronnie Laporte said Morris ran the operation. Federal investigators said otherwise.
At her sentencing, a DEA agent testified Peggy Laporte hired Morris and screened patients to determine who she would allow to see him.
Morris conspired with Laporte to distribute alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug; oxycodone, a narcotic painkiller; and carisoprodol, a non-narcotic muscle relaxer.
An undercover agent acting as a patient went to Morris 22 times, and each time received prescriptions for oxycodone and alprazolam.
Among the medications given to patients were 3,500 doses of oxycodone and 2,300 doses of alprazolam and Valium.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Meynardie said Peggy Laporte had worked at a similar clinic in LaPlace, La., where she learned the prescription pill-mill business. He said she worked for Gloria Adams, who is now serving a five-year prison term for conspiring to sell and distribute prescriptions outside the scope of a medical practice.
Ronnie Laporte said, "That's a lie."
Ozerden described Peggy Laporte's crime as a "serious offense."
"This is an offense that was fairly extensive and ongoing," he said. "It went on for a period of time, some two years. The defendant has no respect for the law. Therefore, she deserves just punishment. Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem."
Laporte has also been convicted of shoplifting in Louisiana.