On Tuesday, Nov. 7, United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg of the Middle District of Florida announced the return of an indictment charging a pair of Hernando County residents. In a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the 77-year-old Dr. Janet Pettyjohn of Spring Hill and her granddaughter Shelly Gallagher (34, Brooksville) were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs. Dr. Pettyjohn was also charged with 21 substantive counts of unlawful drug distribution, while Gallagher was charged with nine counts. Unlike Dr. Pettyjohn, Gallagher did not hold a medical license at the time these events occurred.
Should they be convicted, each will face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each count. The indictment also notifies the doctor that the United States intends to forfeit $34,132 in U.S. currency, which is allegedly traceable to the proceeds of her criminal activity. According to the website of the U.S. Department of Treasury: “Criminal forfeiture is an action brought as a part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant. It is an in personam (against the person) action and requires that the government indict (charge) the property used or derived from the crime along with the defendant.”
Dr. Pettyjohn graduated from A.T. Still University’s Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1974 and operated as an osteopathic physician for over 20 years. Doctors of osteopathic medicine take a “whole-body, patient-centered approach to medicine” under the presumption that the body, mind, and spirit are all connected, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Her status opened the door for her alleged actions, as she was licensed to practice medicine in the State of Florida with a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration number. This allows the practicing physician to prescribe controlled substances, which are generally drugs or chemicals whose manufacture, possession, or use are regulated by a government, such as illicitly used drugs or prescription medications that are designated by law, according to UCLA’s Dept. of Environment, Health and Safety. Under the Controlled Substances Act, controlled substances are categorized into five schedules depending on the drug’s acceptable medical use, and its potential for abuse and dependency.
“Between March 2021 and February 2023, Gallagher sponsored patients at Pettyjohn’s clinic and ordered controlled substances for herself and others from Pettyjohn,” the press release stated. Pettyjohn knowingly and intentionally prescribed the controlled substances for Gallagher and others for no legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice, which Gallagher and others abused and diverted.”
Florida’s Board of Osteopathic Medicine (BOM) restricted the doctor from prescribing opioids in July of 2020 following complaints about the way she prescribed controlled substances and the restriction was later lifted in March of the following year. Despite this, she continued to prescribe opioids over this roughly nine-month span in violation of the BOM’s Final Order. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Greg Pizzo and was investigated by the DEA’s Tampa District Office, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and the Opioid Fraud Abuse and Detection Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office.
“An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty,” the release stated.