Carmel doctor fights for reputation after drug charges dropped
An Indiana doctor is speaking on camera for the first time, in hopes of setting the record straight about an arrest that he says ruined his career and reputation.
Dr. George Agapios was one of four doctors charged in Hamilton County in 2014 for allegedly dealing Suboxone prescriptions.
But two years after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration made big headlines, its case fell apart. Charges against the doctors and addiction center staff were dismissed, and the one doctor who went to trial was found not guilty.
Now there's more fallout, as the doctor fights to reclaim his name.
Awakened from sleep to a real life nightmare, Dr. George Agapios talks about the early morning DEA officers showed up at his door with a warrant for his arrest. He is breaking his silence about the drug charges that put him in jail and cost him his reputation.
"You know we did a lot of good in that clinic," said the doctor. He ventured back to the former site of the DORN Clinic on Main Street in Carmel with 13 Investigates. It was his first time back since July 2014.
"I thought I would be angry," Agapios said, "But all I feel is sadness."
It's his first television interview since he, Dr. Larry Ley and 10-other staff members from the Drug and Opiate Recovery Network were accused of peddling Suboxone prescriptions.
Suboxone is used to treat opioid addiction.
At the time, DEA officials called Ley "the Pablo Escobar of Suboxone" and his staff nothing more than "street corner drug pushers."
The DEA had officers pose as patients to help build the agency's case.
"27 undercover visits into this there was no physical, no blood pressure, no blood work, no anything sort of like that to get these prescriptions," said DEA investigators on July 25, 2014 during a press conference announcing the charges.
"It's appalling," Agapios said in 2017, reflecting on that DEA statement. "To be called a drug dealer was just... It was inappropriate and untrue and wrong," Agapios added.
Agapios told 13 Investigates the DEA and other investigators failed to understand how Suboxone works to suppress painful opioid withdrawal and cravings without giving a high.
"It is not heroin. It treats heroin," said the doctor drawing attention to some of the mischaracterizations of Suboxone.
"You cannot overdose on Suboxone," he continued. "It appeared certainly to me as a miracle drug," he said.
Waiting for his day in court over the miracle drug, Dr. Agapios lost his DEA license to prescribe narcotics, lost hospital privileges and was unemployed for two years.
Then without warning, the DEA's case against its primary target, the owner of the DORN clinics, Dr. Larry Ley, fell apart.
"It was vindication"
After an eight day trial in front of a Hamilton County judge, Ley was acquitted of all charges.
"What did that mean for you?" 13 Investigates asked Agapios.
"It was vindication," he responded. At least a start.
The DEA and City of Carmel won't talk about the failed case or the 27,000 hours of surveillance collected.
"A waste of taxpayers' money," said Dr. Agapios, who still struggles to understand the motivation, but suspects it has something to do with Carmel's city image.
"There was some political reason why having an opioid clinic in downtown Carmel was maybe not good for publicity," the doctor surmised.
And that he says has caused a lot of needless suffering: for the addicted, for his co-workers and for their families.
"It's heartbreaking and tragic. Financially we've all been devastated. Spiritually, you grow. A lot," he said emphasizing the last two words.
13 Investigates asked the doctor what he wants now.
"I want to get my life back," he said.
Despite what Dr. Agapios calls the "good work" done to combat addiction, he says he will focus on his family practice in Fishers. The DEA has since issued him a new license.
Agapios and three other doctors, including Ley, filed their suit in US District Court. Below is their amended complaint filed in January 2017.
Eight former employees at the clinic, who were also arrested, filed a separate lawsuit against the DEA, Carmel and the officers.