Methadone clinic owner fighting state to reopen business

Posted Oct. 15, 2010, at 11:59 a.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The owner of a recently shut down methadone clinic whom the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is accusing of attempting to obtain cocaine from the clinic’s clients is fighting the state of Maine in a civil lawsuit so she may reopen her business.

The State of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services is seeking the permanent revocation of Turning Tide’s license, according to assistant attorney general N. Paul Gauvreau.

Included in court documents filed in Rockland District Court to support the state’s case is a DEA order explaining why clinic owner Angel Fuller McMahan’s federal license to operate a narcotic treatment program was suspended. Both a state and federal license are needed to operate such a clinic.

In the DEA order, agents accuse Fuller McMahan of planning to fraudulently order a shipment of methadone for a clinic client in exchange for cocaine.

The DEA also accuses Fuller McMahan of buying cocaine from her clinic’s clientele, engaging in “at least three” illegal cocaine transactions and breaking a contract with the DEA that stipulated she would neither enter the clinic nor be in charge of ordering drugs for the clinic.

Last, the DEA accuses the woman of hiring her husband, Vance McMahan, whom the DEA states “has been convicted of illegal drug possession and has access to [Turning Tide’s] controlled substances and confidential patient information.”

Fuller McMahan’s lawyer Jay McCloskey said Friday that his client denies all of the allegations.

Court files in the case show that because Fuller McMahan is a convicted drug felon, the DEA and Fuller McMahan had a memorandum of agreement with certain restrictions that allowed her to obtain a federal license for the clinic. This document, signed by Fuller McMahan and a representative from the DEA in 2008, specifies that Fuller McMahan was not allowed to enter the facility, to be a patient of the clinic or to order any of the clinic’s methadone.

According to the DEA document that suspended Turning Tide’s registration to operate, Fuller McMahan broke the memorandum of agreement in several ways.

“Fuller-McMahan continues to retain control and have supervisory authority over key aspects of [Turning Tide’s] operation. She has also represented to at least one patient that she has access to controlled substances which are ordered on behalf of [Turning Tide],” the Aug. 17 document states. “Fuller-McMahan has also repeat-edly violated the terms of the MOA by entering the physical premises of Turning Tide, Inc.”

A hearing on the state’s civil lawsuit to permanently revoke Fuller McMahon’s license to operate the clinic is scheduled to be held in Rockland District Court on Oct. 28.

In addition to fighting the state’s effort, McCloskey’s client will file an appeal of the federal license suspension, he said.

Law enforcement officials closed down the Turning Tide methadone clinic in Rockland on Aug. 19, citing an unspecified threat to public health and safety.

An investigation by the DEA determined that “Turning Tide’s continued registration to dispense controlled substances constitutes an immediate danger to public health and safety,” DEA spokesman Anthony Pettigrew of the agency’s regional office in Boston said in August. No details about the investigation were provided at the time.

Guy Cousins, director of the Maine Office of Substance Abuse, said Aug. 19 that the state permanently revoked the clinic’s license based on the federal investigation.

Fuller McMahan and a former clinic counselor also face felony drug charges.

Fuller McMahan was arrested July 13 after law enforcement agents witnessed her buying drugs in a Rockland parking lot and later found $2,500 worth of cocaine hidden in her pants and drug paraphernalia in her car, according to police.

A few days later, on July 16, clinic counselor Carol Gardiner of Thorndike was summoned for attempted possession of cocaine. Law enforcement officials said at the time that their investigation of Fuller McMahan revealed that some of the cocaine she purchased was intended for Gardiner.

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