Crime

Ex-psychiatric center workers admit writing illegal prescriptions. One wants wants a trial.

Tyrone Leonard Thomas, Nakita Piernas and Andrea Opoku worked at Gulf Oaks Outpatient Clinic in Biloxi when they conspired to run a prescription drug ring, court papers show. Merit Health owns the clinic.
Tyrone Leonard Thomas, Nakita Piernas and Andrea Opoku worked at Gulf Oaks Outpatient Clinic in Biloxi when they conspired to run a prescription drug ring, court papers show. Merit Health owns the clinic.

Three former employees at an outpatient psychiatric center in Biloxi have admitted they used prescription pads to write illegal prescriptions for themselves, their friends and family members.

Eight others also indicted in an investigation of workers at Merit Health Gulf Oaks Outpatient Clinic admitted they committed prescription fraud to obtain narcotics, mostly painkillers.

But not Beverly Clayton, 53, of Gulfport. She is the only one of the 12 co-defendants who has not accepted a plea deal on an indictment filed June 21.

The prosecution revealed the jobs the three Merit Health employees had at the clinic and what the 11 admitted in their guilty pleas in a conspiracy prosecutors say ran about 2 1/2 years, starting in 2014.

▪ Andrea Reene Opoku, 34, of Gulfport, was the office manager at Gulf Oaks, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

▪ Nakita Marie Piernas, 29, who was living in Pass Christian, and Tyrone Leonard Thomas Jr., 36, of Gulfport, were medical technicians at the clinic. Piernas now lives in Biloxi.

Opoku and Piernas wrote prescriptions included in the indictment.

Opoku, Piernas and Tyrone Thomas have each pleaded guilty on a conspiracy charge along with Marcus Deshawn Price, 27, of Gulfport.

The indictment accused Thomas of obtaining a prescription on one of the same days as Clayton, and accused Price of obtaining five prescriptions.

Thomas, Price and the former employees each face up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

As part of their pleas, they each admitted they were part of a conspiracy to dispense and distribute drugs outside the scope of professional practice from early 2014 until June 21, when the first indictment was filed.

The first indictment lists 12 fraudulent prescriptions used to obtain hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Four defendants have each pleaded guilty on two counts of prescription fraud: Thomas Luther Davis, 28, of D’Iberville; Cauricia Williams, 27, who was living in Long Beach and has moved to California; Brittany Jalisa Payne, 27, of Pass Christian; and Terry Oneal Grant, 30, of Hattiesburg.

Grant’s plea involves two prescriptions for oxycodone he filled in Lamar County.

Thomas Davis, Cauricia Williams, Payne and Grant each face up to eight years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Three defendants have each pleaded guilty on one count of prescription fraud. They are James Thomas Davis, 36, of D’Iberville; Thomas Elliott Williams, 28, of Pass Christian; and Kayla Caldwell, 26, of Gulfport.

Caldwell admitted getting a prescription for oxycodone; others with one count each admitted getting hydrocodone.

James Davis, Thomas Williams and Caldwell each face up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained a new indictment Dec. 13 with 13 charges against Clayton. It’s a procedure federal prosecutors sometimes use to make plea negotiations appear more desirable than a trial.

Clayton originally faced a conspiracy charge and five counts of prescription fraud involving hydrocodone.

The new indictment accuses Clayton on a conspiracy charge and six counts each of prescription fraud and distribution of a controlled substance. She is accused of writing fraudulent prescriptions for hydrocodone and distributing them.

The conspiracy charge, which names the other 11 co-defendants as participants, alleges the drug ring also pumped out prescriptions for xycodone, amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall), alprazolam and Klonopin.

Clayton pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on Dec. 20, court records show. She remains free on a $25,000 bond.

Clayton is set for trial on a court calendar that starts March 5, 2018, with U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden presiding.

Sentencing hearings for the others have been delayed.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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