Jason Villano: Pill mill crackdown's unjust victim

Five goombahs sweep into a closet-like suburban pharmacy in Plantation. One locks the door. Two others snag the arms of Jason Villano, a skinny, gap-toothed 29-year-old.

The capo, Bobby, a stocky career criminal in shorts and a Kangol hat, starts. "I know everything about you. I know about your parents living down here. I know you live with your girlfriend. I could hurt you, but I don't like doing anything like that."

Then he demands pain pill prescriptions — five of them — and tugs from his pocket the business card of a Broward police lieutenant. "This belongs to my nephew. Cooperate, or tonight when you leave here, you will be pulled over and police will find Oxycontin on you. I need these scrips. So go back and fill them."

Jason Villano: Screwed by the state.
Chuck Strouse
Jason Villano: Screwed by the state.

Thus began the unlikely jailhouse odyssey of Villano, now a 37-year-old Broward County dad with a background helping AIDS victims. He made no profit from drug sales, and lost both his pharmacy license and seven years of his life.

South Florida is a world leader in illicit pain medication sales. Around 85 percent of the nation's oxycodone, the drug of choice for millions, is peddled here. And less than two months after signing into law a hotly debated jihad on pill mills, Gov. Rick Scott last week set up a dog-and-pony show to declare victory. "There are good things to see," he said. "Our approach is working."

Baloney.

Villano's story takes us backstage in the crackdown. To collar him, cops allied themselves with a convicted rapist and a lowlife accused of more than 30 crimes, from extortion and burglary to domestic abuse, during the past three decades. The crooks got off easy. Even Villano's boss, a former Broward County Pharmacy Association president who was also convicted of selling oxycodone and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from the drug sales, has returned to prominence.

Villano spent four months behind bars and two years on house arrest. He's still on probation, and his life is a mess. "The court has taken everything from me and left me in the dirt," says Villano, who lives in a modest cinder-block home with his wife and 18-month-old daughter. He can't afford a car, so he pedals around town on a beat-up Mongoose bicycle. When a judge recently continued Villano's probation, eight years after the alleged crime, he says, "I literally broke down crying."

Villano is a local kid. He grew up in Hallandale Beach and Hollywood. Both parents were elementary school teachers — mom at Citrus Grove in Miami, dad at Sterling in Broward. He graduated with honors from Davie's Nova High School in 1992 and then spent a couple of years at the University of Florida before transferring to Florida Atlantic in Boca and earning a pharmacy degree at Nova Southeastern. Chemistry and biology were his interests. "I wanted to be a doctor," he says.

After finishing his education, he interned at Walgreens and then spent a year doing a residency at an HIV clinic just west of downtown Fort Lauderdale. He also taught at Nova Southeastern and did AIDS research, once even presenting his work in Scotland.

His only run-in with the law came in 1994, when he was dropping off a girlfriend in Boynton Beach and an undercover cop named Donald Bateson tried to pull him over. Fearing a carjacking, Villano fled. Bateson claimed Villano had burglarized a car. The pharmacy student received probation. Later, Bateson was busted for burglary, and it turned out he had pinned thefts on random traffic stops. In 1999, Boynton paid Villano a $14,000 settlement and apologized. His record was clear.

Then, in March 2002, Villano's Nova professor and mentor, Seth Mahler, called. He owned a pharmacy in Hollywood and wanted to expand into Plantation, at Broward Boulevard and University Drive. The job would pay $70,000 per year, paltry for a pharmacist, according to payscale.com, but Villano was enthusiastic. Mahler was a prominent guy, president-elect of the Broward County Pharmacy Association, and the plan was sound. "I'm 28 years old, I had all this knowledge, and I wanted to do something with it... to open my own HIV-specialty pharmacy. This was a step. I would learn the business."

The store opened in June, and two months later, Villano says, Mahler called with a request. A longtime client and New Yorker named Tony needed two Xanax prescriptions filled. Mahler didn't have the drugs on hand in Hollywood. Could Villano fill the prescription?

Later that day, Tony walked into the Plantation store. "He was wearing a hat, jewelry — a stereotypical Italian from New York." He said he wanted the prescriptions not for himself but for other people. There was a conversation about fishing. No big deal. Because Mahler often worked with elderly folks, Villano figured the drugs were for them.

In the days that followed, four or five guys would accompany Tony and also request prescriptions, Villano says. The leader, Bobby, was there. The youngest one, in his late 20s, was named Robert Redford. Then there was Kevin — a big guy — and someone named Joey. "They were all tough guys from the streets," Villano says. Then one day Tony entered alone and asked to have five prescriptions filled. That was too much. "When someone walks in with five prescriptions, you don't fill them. The person is a junkie. Something like that."

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35 comments
davemanger1
davemanger1

all you guys take the dough at 10 bucks a pill and holler foul when you get caught.Check your morals at the door.Is this in the oath?Cry baby cry!!want fred hadads' number? Hilliard muldoff may of helped.Gotta know who to hire like jasons boss.

davemanger1
davemanger1

Now you call me names.This is where you were smart to take those boxing lessons.One day you will run that mouth to the wrong person.When you wake up from a good slap to your mouth you will know you went too far.I am commenting on an open public forum.You have even gone racial by putting a label on the gangsters as being the italian goombahs.Oh no the mafia is here.Better get the pills out so they won't beat me up.Get real!!Take it to the jury if your innocent .Do you not trust twelve intelligent neutral people?Fellow taxpaying citizens who must be able to sort this mess out.Maybe you could convince the judge to allow you to withdraw your plea and you can then proclaim your innocence to the jury.The records you kept and the pay roll records show that you did not profit from the crimes you committed.Now those are some very convenient records.Surely the jury would agree that you would never get compensated in cash and just maybe hide it somewhere other than your bank.Not an innocent guy.Once again,You put the smith and wesson jewelry on your self.It was highly avoidable. From the first onset of greed you were guilty.You should of walked away if your as innocent as you claim and as tough and street wise as you want people to think.The author makes you out as dudlely do right who got done wrong.Your way of speaking shows your true colors.The only innocent party here was Jules Seiler.That is a fact.

Collegereen23
Collegereen23

As a personal friend of Jason who knew nothing of the details of his arrest, I only have this to say: You will not find a better man, citizen, husband or father. Reading this actually made me cry. Jason and his family deserve better. His lovely wife and more than adorable daughter bring a smile to anyone's face. Shame on the legal system for allowing this. I know that Jason has morals and ethics, and I can tell that he was backed into a corner that he could not get out of. I only hope that others see his intelligence, heart, and the man that he really is.

HMC123
HMC123

I'm sorry, I don't like Rick Scott too much either... but what does this story have to do with the current crackdown? The article states: "the governor is declaring victory while aggressively moving forward with an unproven strategy to shut down pill mills." I actually believe that the crackdown subject of this article was quite successful. The ring was shut down! I can only hope that this crackdown nets similar results. Furthermore, It is gross negligence in reporting to say all crackdowns are bad because one guy's sentence in another crackdown was not strong enough. I am sorry that Mr. Villano is finding it difficult to rejoin society after being a white collar criminal (he could have gone to the Feds at any time with his suspicions, if he was so afraid of BSO, and set up a sting much like the criminls did) but that does not negate the fact that the crackdown subject of this article did successfully shutdown a pill mill ring.

Jb
Jb

why the sympathy for this kid??? he knowingly sold controlled drugs without valid prescriptions on a daily basis while claiming he was being threatened- not good enough! this prescription drug abuse is a massive problem & must be prosecuted aggressively until it is under control. there will always be some 'collateral' damage but that is life-

Biglou9
Biglou9

Glen61 should let you know about his hobbyinstead of being on his high horse

overtown
overtown

glenn61 has made a very interesting post. By reading this, you are able to understand what the majority of the public actually believes about pain pills. He is absolutely wrong and has no idea that oxycodone "aka Oxycontin," is not heroin. However, due to a nickname given to it by the media (Hillbilly heroin), he believes this is true. He has done absolutely no real research, but believes that reading articles on google news or fox news is certainly good enough (they would never get any fact wrong or exaggerate anything). glenn61 how do you feel about those heroin seed bagels they're selling in stores nowadays? They're derived from poppies! It's the same shit as heroin! Lets also ban that damned loperamide, it is derived from the poppies and therefore it is heroin.

JusticeForJason
JusticeForJason

glenn61: You are missing the point of this story. It is about injustice and double-standards, not lessons in pharmacology

seep
seep

oxycontin is not refined heroin

Mike
Mike

Doesn't seem like the author is saying Villano shouldn't have been punished. He's suggesting the pharmacy boss who made this all happen should've gotten worse than he did.

Rph for Jason
Rph for Jason

I remember the morning this broke on the local news years ago. I always knew there was more to the story--as a pharmacist and someone who knew Jason and his values the story never quite made sense. So quick are they to parade a "witch" in their so-called hunt to set an "example".

As a former independent mom and pop pharmacy employee, I know the types that come in with their prescriptions. Many people don't see that side of it. There is a fear of robbery and junkie goons that is enough to make you change professions! To hear the police work related to this story is not comforting at all...

Terrysignature
Terrysignature

Where is the justice? It's sad to see an innocent person suffer for these scum bags.

JusticeForJason
JusticeForJason

As a pharmacist and friend, it's about time the REAL story went public. Meanwhile Mahler, Jason's co-defendent, is teaching at a university in Illinois and a member of the pharmacy association. I am sure those pharmacy students and their families would love to know the history of their "mentor." It is just a matter of time before he takes advantage of another young bright-eyed, motivated student. Justice my ass. Everyone in South Florida should be happy to know where their tax dollars are going: to support a corrupt police department and legal system that doesn't care about the truth, but about getting paid off by the mafia. And if you think this is an isolated example, think again.

Rochelholzkenner
Rochelholzkenner

How unjust - a good guy gets set up - a perversion of the justice system

michael wind
michael wind

good example,next time call the fbi they are right here close by....

nmordwinkin
nmordwinkin

@davemanger1 You are too cute. Twelve intelligent neutral people. You poor thing. Go back in your hole. And by the way, Jules Seiler was innocent? By your own blubbering rantings he is guilty.  He pled guilty you moron. How little you know. Signing off now, so don't worry about replying to any additional posts. Us well-educated, learned, working people have things to do. Enjoy replying to every comment with your backwards logic.

davemanger1
davemanger1

@Collegereen23 I don't understand how you can justify the statement ,"jason and his family deserve better"and then"shame on the legal system".This coming from YOU after your first sentence clearly introduces you as a PERSONAL friend who"knew nothing of the details of the arrest"sounds a bit self serving.You chastise law enforcement when you know nothing about the case.Your friend pled guilty!That pharmacy was wide open.They were brazen in the way they conducted themselves.The people they were set up by were not the only ones that were served drugs without prescriptions at that pharmacy.It is a cash business.Do the math.Numbers do not lie.When venturing into this profession of pharmacology students are taught to deal with the kind of scenario put forth by Jason.I am sure he is very sorry he screwed up.Very embarrassing.Crying foul now is even more demeaning."Poor me" just does not cut it anymore.A real man will dust himself off and move forward.Maybe he will do this instead of pointing the finger of blame at fairy tale gangsters.Time will tell.Off to a bad start though!!

davemanger1
davemanger1

@HMC123 Bingo!!Couldn't of said it better myself.

davemanger1
davemanger1

@Jb be careful!!Jason now feels he should of pled not guilty.At least that is whay i get from the letter above that he wrote me.Boo hoo! Always the big bad boogey man.I agree with you 100 percent.Without the drugs there was no crime.Where did the drugs come from??No brainer.

davemanger1
davemanger1

@overtown Might as well lock up everyone at Mc Donalds also for trafficking in heroine seeds.Two all beef pattys special sauce lettuce cheese pickles,onions, on a HEROINE seed bun.

davemanger1
davemanger1

@JusticeForJason Please explain where you find the injustice in this story?What double standards do you refer to.I read the same story and i know all of the arrested partys but one.Everyone pled guilty to the crime of convenience that was offered to them.Many charges were dropped by the government.The defendants could easily gone to trial.An innocent person would not of cut a deal.this was not a stacked deck of lies.These guys are just mad that the cops used criminal snitches to set them up.They all have their families and they all got off real easy.Four months.That is a double standard.As a tax payer i would rather see all of them walk than have the government spend a fortune investigating a petty crime that only put these so called BAD men in kindergarten for four months.What an insult to the intelligent mind.Dea dog and pony show.Someone has to fall to keep the funding coming in!

davemanger1
davemanger1

@Mike Did you ever stop to think that his boss played a much larger role in the actual arrest and gathering of evidence to secure his own little get of jail free card for god knows what else he was into.Jason knew what he was doing.He just trusted the old man to break off some of the major dollars.We will never know the total truth.Who really cares at this point.Go read your kids a book or something of this nature.Productive stuff for a change!!

davemanger1
davemanger1

@Terrysignature once again.Guilty!! He pled guilty.He sold drugs over the counter and put money in his pocket.They were not over the counter drugs.Guilty ..He is home.He crys foul at house arrest.Would he prefer to shower with bubba? Sounds like it.

davemanger1
davemanger1

@Rochelholzkenner They were all good guys.They were not bad people.Only one should be spoke of in the past tense also.People just do the wrong things sometimes for what they think is the right reason.Human nature? Free will? Should some one face prison for this garbage? No .Put the money in the hospitals for rehab if people want it.Imagine the waste of money by the feds and state.The money wasted on this one case.the cops salary.Really.you should see as a taax payer the dough the government blows on one case from start to finish.right down to jailer and soap for the inmates to public defnders.Then think of the decent people charged with a drug crime.They lose every thing they ever worked for and face prison.Prison for this crap.People need to open their eyes.They billions wasted and the families destroyed.The taxpayers then have to support the family or what is left of it when they put a guy in jail for several years over a jug of pills you can get from your dentist.Makes a person think about if they want to stay in this country when stupid things of this nature continue to go down.Free country ?/I don,t think so. England wised up with their drug laws years ago and the crime rate dropped drasticly.All the government is doing is locking up people that actually pay a fair amount of tax dollars every year and harm no one.

jason.villano
jason.villano

@davemanger1 Dave you are a self-rightous unmitigated know it all moron. It is interesting how you can claim to know that the pharmacy was "wide open and brazen with the way that they conducted themselves". How exactly do you know this "fact" did you buy Oxycontin from there? Did you enter and pass off a fake prescription or did you overtly ask Jason to sell you drugs without a prescription? How exactly do you know that these "fairy tale gangsters" are not the only ones to be served drugs illegally? Or are you a law enforcement officer who worked on the case? If so, you would know that all the pharmacy records were thoroughly reviewed by various state agencies and no other finding of illicit activities occurred.  You would also be aware of the fact that these "fairy tale gangsters" have extensive criminal backgrounds including serving long sentences in federal and state prisons for racketeering, extortion, rape, home invasion, robbery and murder. It is documented that they have direct ties to Italian organized crime families in the northeast and were are known associates of members of the Dinner Set Gang. If you do not believe me I invite you to search the criminal backgrounds Robert Pitocelli and Anthony Deluca.You would also know that they had been under investigation for over a year while all this was occurring and the police never once came to the pharmacies the visited to ask for cooperation.  As far as it being a cash business did you ever think that Mr. Villano did not keep one cent of the money that was collected for the sale of these medications in the hope that if he was arrested for this crime, investigators would realize that he was the patsy who was set up by his boss and intimidated by the mafia. Did you ever think that Mr Villano thought about going to the FBI but was made aware by Mr. Pitocelli and his associates that they had FBI agents on their payroll in New York, New Jersey and Florida? As far as what is taught in pharmacy school, the rules and regulations are taught in one class out of the entire four years of school.  They do not teach you how to deal with threats of violence, extortion of medication by organized crime or how to deal with dirty police agencies.  I do appreciate your bravado from behind a screen and keyboard and I am sure that if you were placed in a similar situation your courage and moral compass would allow you to suppress all you feelings of helplessness, fear and anger and obviously permit take a stand to defend the laws of the state rather than self-preservation. Obviously, Mr. Villano is a spineless coward like the other countless hard working people around the globe who are "victims" of organized crime and extortion.  Furthermore, I am not so sure that making public one's story of intimidation can be classified as "finger pointing".  Actually, I think that it is quite a feat to "out" a corrupt Broward Sheriff's lieutenant and organized crime ring. Moreover, being the real man that you are, I am sure that you know what it is like to "dust yourself off" after losing the ability to do a job that required 8 years of University Level education, incurring $100,000 worth of student loans, $200,000 of legal fees, losing a house to pay for those legal fees, serving time in Broward county's finest jail for 4 months, being on house arrest for two years, serving probation for four years, losing your drivers license for a mandatory two year period due to this drug conviction, not being able to be with your dying father because you are on house arrest, pay fees to the state of Florida in order that you can be supervised, not having the ability to get any job other than menial labor due to felony convictions, work several odd jobs including, waiting tables, cutting lawns in 100 degree heat, bouncing at night clubs, working as a photographers assistant, and finally landing a permanent gig as house cleaner. Oh yes, I am sure that is what you would do right before attending FAU master degree program in Computer Science and Engineering. You are absolutely right Dave, if only Jason Villano could be half the man you are, then society would clearly see what a good for nothing, drug trafficking, money-hungry, cry-baby, finger-pointing lowlife Mr. Villano is.

jason.villano
jason.villano

@davemanger1 No Dave and HMC, pharmacist went to jail, but the criminals are still free and still up to no good. In fact, Mr. Pitocelli was rearrested for extortion after Mr. Villano's conviction. It seems to me that if the police went to the pharmacist and doctor directly, and used them as the informants then the true criminals would be behind bars and the ring shut down. One thing I know for sure is that their informants are career criminals who constantly rotate in and out of jail. Not sure if that is the best way to decrease crime.

jason.villano
jason.villano

@davemanger1 When facing a twenty-five year mandatory minimum sentencing and dealing with an over-zealous prosecutor and police force, I am not so sure that you would have such a cavalier approach to going to trial. Furthermore, if your boss, professor, and mentor purposely places you unknowingly into a pharmacy (which he intends to use in a pill mill) in order to have a patsy with seven charges placed against him versus Seth's one then yes it might seem as if the deck is stacked against you and you might just might take a plea deal. Although knowing the manly man that you are dave I am sure you would definitely go to trial. oh dave if only i could be half the man you are.... 

btw i call complete BS on you knowing every party, because i know for a fact that you do not know me.

jason.villano
jason.villano

@davemanger1 like i said dave you are a no nothing moron... i doubt you could ever be able to comprehend the truth, but i do appreciate your imaginative creation of the facts, maybe you should stop with your twitter and study law. I am sure that the states attorney's office would love to have such a wonderful spin artist on their team.

jason.villano
jason.villano

oh to have your long flowing hair wet hair all over my body dave... mmm paradise... just think afterward we could take all the money i made a have a mancation in mexico just you and me dave... what do you think???

davemanger1
davemanger1

@jason.villano @davemanger1 exactly! And i don't care to know you.!Try going to work or go back outside with your sign begging for a hand out.You got the back of your hand slapped.that's it.Your crying like a little girl.If you were so aware of your boss using you as a sucker you could of quit..Don't get mad at me.I did not put that smith and wesson jewelry on your wrists.You did that to yourself.

davemanger1
davemanger1

@jason.villano SYMPATHY FOR JASON!! Is that what this is about? I don't know you and when i commented on this forum i did not expect to be having a discussion with you.Since that is exactly what is happening why don't you at least be honest? I do not condone the police doing as they do.I do not think they should be able to use the word of a convicted felon against an innocent man on trial for anything if the felony conviction is for lying.Being a criminal is considered being dishonest and it is a label that sticks like glue for life.Hyporites all around us.The so called justice system is flawed beyond repair.The flaws are not accidents therefore my beyond repair statement.The drugs are only controlled substances for a reason.I won't go into that but if you know your history the dea was spawned by the fda and was to be for product safety to the consumer only.I think you all got a piss poor deal.Your lives all put on reset and do over the minute you take your first breath of air as a free man.I have been there and i have made the same mistakes.That is what they are and were.Mistakes.In a free country the Drug laws are self serving anyway.Once a doctor has declared it safe for a patient to consume a certain drug the drug should be available to that person just as coffee is.This mat sound crazy but if you think about it for a moment it might make sense.No one would have to commit a crime to get drugs.They would be there if you want/need them.No profit in drugs any longer means no crimes stemming from the need for drugs.No profit in smuggling as it is not illegal any longer.Terrorists can no longer fill their caves with cash as they would not have the cash machine from the guys with the bent noses or any other source.You gotta move on.Running around angry at someone only consumes your soul.Half the time your angry at someone they do not even know it or bother to think of you.The other half the time the person does know your angry at them and they take great pleasure in knowing they ruffled your feathers.It could of been a hell of a lot worse for you guys and you know it.Cops do not play fair.Knowing this i am sure you will choose a trade or profession doing something that pays you well and does not have you in contact with the very type of situations that got you involved in this crap in the first place.Good luck to you but as to your request..NO. I AM NOT GETTING IN THE SHOWER WITH YOU !!

davemanger1
davemanger1

@jason.villano I think four months with bubba has you wanting a man in your life.Sissy!!Mommy help!!i'm in the county and they won't let me out.Did mommy and daddy pay for your lawyer too?

davemanger1
davemanger1

@jason.villano @davemanger1 Damn Jason.We are on first name basis now i imagine.It is you inviting me to shower with you is it not?I thought the story said you were married to a sympathetic woman.Now i understand the sympathy part.You just came flying out of the closet didn't you? I have nothing against you for being gay.It is your slanderous mouth i am tired of.When the reporter came to you it was easy enough for you to say" no commen".Then this 15 minutes of fame you are having would never have taken place.Maybe you called the reporter with your sympathy soap box.Too bad your soap box is made out of bubbles!

 
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