A doctor who illegally provided prescriptions for opioids that then were sold throughout the Irish Travelers’ Murphy Village area in Aiken County also pressured female patients to have sex with him.
That is what a prosecutor told a federal court Monday as Dr. Fred Gilliard, 76, a general practice doctor specializing in addiction therapy, pleaded guilty to illegally distributing oxycodone, a powerful, addictive narcotic used as a painkiller.
To put together the case against Gilliard, federal agents gathered video, audio and recorded telephone-call evidence, as well as interviewing cooperating witnesses.
“Sir, is there anything you disagree with in the government’s recitation of the facts?” U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs asked Gilliard in a hearing at the U.S. courthouse in Columbia.
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“No, ma’am,” answered Gilliard, who had come to court in garb he quickly could exchange for a jail’s jump suit – dark slacks, a button-down light shirt with no tie, and white sneakers.
Gilliard’s most recent illegal activities – he previously served time in prison for illegal distribution of drugs – were uncovered last year. Federal agents, investigating a white-collar crime ring in the Travelers’ Murphy Village community, received a tip that a doctor was dealing opioids to the Travelers.
The doctor, whom agents identified as Gilliard, was providing Travelers with “prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances which were then being sold throughout Murphy Village,” prosecutor Jay Richardson told the judge.
According to Richardson, the investigation found:
▪ Several patients received prescriptions, including for opioids, from Gilliard and sold the drugs in Murphy Village
▪ A “cooperating witness” bought opioids from one of Gilliard’s patients, who then told agents the doctor often “would proposition her for sexual favors in exchange for prescriptions and that he would contact her at all hours of the night”
▪ Federal agents reviewed Gilliard’s phone records and found “an abnormal pattern of contacting his female patients”
▪ One witness recorded her phone calls with Gilliard, who was recorded as “requesting sexual favors in exchange for prescriptions”
That witness, who was not identified, then met with Gilliard at a Waffle House last June, off Exit 5 on I-20 in Aiken County.
At that meeting, Gilliard said he would provide the witness with a prescription for hydrocodone, an opioid, but that the witness had to have sex with him.
That meeting was recorded and became part of the evidence that convinced Gilliard to plead guilty.
According to news accounts, Gilliard, a 1968 graduate of the Medical University of Georgia, served several years in prison in the late 1990s after a federal jury convicted him of wide-ranging fraud in a Medicare billing scheme. In the 1980s, Gilliard served several years in prison after FBI agents videotaped him dropping off a prescription narcotic to a Savannah hotel.
The drug crime that Gilliard pleaded guilty to Monday carries a maximum 20-year sentence and a $1 million fine.
In an afternoon bond hearing, Gilliard’s attorney, John Delgado of Columbia, begged Magistrate Judge Paige Gossett to let Gilliard stay out of jail, at least until he could transfer a handful of remaining patients to other doctors.
“It can’t be said that he is a danger to anyone except himself,” Delgado told Gossett.
In his medical practice, Gilliard has helped drug addicts fight their addiction to opioids and “is very committed to their well-being,” Delgado said.
Defendants who have pleaded guilty to serious drug offenses are not normally eligible for bond, Gossett replied, ruling Gilliard had to remain in jail until he is sentenced. “My hands are kind of tied on this. I’m required by law to detain Dr. Gilliard.”
Gilliard, who has a Georgia medical license, has been a doctor in Evans, Ga., just inside the Georgia state line from South Carolina.
For several years, federal and local law agents have been investigating a crime ring run out of the Travelers’ Murphy Village.
Some 50 Irish Travelers and their associates have been indicted, pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
However, the investigation is ongoing.
About 1,400 Irish Travelers, many related by blood and marriage, live in and around Murphy Village, an unincorporated area near North Augusta. The group, known for its closed ways and scams, is said to be descended from Irish immigrants who came to the area in the 1850s.