GULFPORT -- The owner of a Waveland internal medicine clinic accused in a prescription pill ring had worked at a similar clinic in LaPlace, La., where authorities believe she learned about the illegal trade from a woman convicted of a similar charge there, authorities said.
That and other evidence came out in federal court Wednesday when Peggy Laporte, 59, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance outside the scope of a medical practice in a plea deal with the government. In exchange for her plea, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Meynardie said the government is prepared to dismiss the remaining 56 counts against her.
She is facing a maximum prison term of five years and up to $250,000 in fines at her Jan. 27 sentencing. The government also filed a criminal forfeiture to seize $35,977 in alleged drug proceeds as well as any interest she has in property at 1405 Pier Ave. in Metairie.
As part of the plea, Laporte admitted conspiring with her employee Dr. Steve Morris III, 56, at her business, Total Health Solutions Inc., to possess and distribute the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam outside the scope of a medical practice. Morris, authorities said, traded pills for shrimp and gave others away.
Prior to opening the Waveland clinic, Meynardie said, Laporte worked for Gloria Adams of LaPlace, who is serving a five-year sentence for conspiring to sell and fill prescriptions outside the scope of a medical practice, Meynardie said.
A federal grand jury indicted Laporte, Morris and Brittany Spikes, 29, on charges of conspiracy and aiding and abetting one another to possess, distribute and dispense controlled substances outside the scope of a medical practice in a 57-count indictment.
The medications involved in the conspiracy are alprazolam, the narcotic painkiller oxycodone and carisoprodol, a non-narcotic muscle relaxer known by the brand name Soma. The alleged crimes occurred in Hancock County as early as 2013 and continued through the April 17 indictment.
Meynardie said two undercover agents went a number of times to the Waveland clinic and each time they received prescriptions for oxycodone and alprazolam, though there was never any real examination or explanations about what the drugs were needed for.
During one of the visits, Meynardie said, Laporte noticed a young girl walk into the clinic and said, "That patient is too young" for the drugs.
Among the prescription drugs given to patients were 3,500 doses of oxycodone and 2,300 doses of valium and alprazolam, Meynardie said.
Morris, who pleaded guilty to a same charge earlier this month, had been held without bond since his arrest. On Thursday, a judge agreed to release him on a $25,000 unsecured bond pending sentencing.
Laporte is also free on bond pending sentencing.
The government has dismissed charges against Spikes.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration headed up the investigation in conjunction with the Hancock County Sheriff's Department.