By George Anastasia
Dr. William O'Brien compared himself to Donald Trump today while challenging bankruptcy fraud and money-laundering charges that are part of his ongoing pill mill trial.
O'Brien, who is representing himself, was in the midst of a heated exchange with retired FBI agent Kevin Kane this afternoon when he used a Trump reference to try to put his own financial situation in perspective.
O'Brien seemed to be contending that while his medical practice was in bankruptcy back in 2012, other companies he controlled were not and earnings from one could potentially offset losses from another.
"Do you know Donald Trump, who is running for president right now?" O'Brien asked, referring to the presumptive Republican Party nominee. "Some of his companies were in bankruptcy and others were not in bankruptcy. Did you know that?"
Kane, who withstood nearly three hours of pointed cross-examination without appearing flustered, brushed the question aside.
"I didn't investigate Donald Trump," he replied.
While Hillary Clinton supporters might wish he had, Kane said his focus during the nearly three-year probe was O'Brien, the 53-year-old doctor who authorities say turned his pain management medical practice into an illegal and highly lucrative drug dispensing operation.
Kane, who worked with the federal investigative team that built the case against O'Brien, said he was assigned to develop evidence to support the money laundering charge and a charge that O'Brien had given false statements in the bankruptcy proceeding in 2014. Those were part of a sweeping indictment that also charged O'Brien with conspiracy and drug dealing.
The veteran investigator is expected back on the witness stand when the trial before U.S. District Court Judge Nitza Quinones resumes on Monday. The trial will be in recess Friday.
Kane spent nearly five hours testifying today, first under direct examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Beth Leahy then on cross by O'Brien. The former agent detailed his findings, telling the federal court jury that will decided O'Brien's fate that O'Brien and his former wife, Ellizabeth Hibbs, routinely funneled money out of the medical practice while it was in bankruptcy, in effect hiding assets from the bankruptcy court.
He also cited a sworn statement O'Brien made in bankruptcy court in October 2014 in which the doctor said he was living in his office in Levittown and depending on friends and family members for food while driving a Kia Sedona and generating virtually no income.
In fact, Kane said, O'Brien and Hibbs, who divorced in 2012 but according to authorities continued to live together, had just weeks earlier signed a lease for a $2,100-a-month condo at The Phoenix, a high rise at 16th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia.
He said money and other assets seized during the investigation included $10,000 in cash found in a drawer at the condo. And more than $300,000 in bank accounts and safety deposit boxes controlled by Hibbs.
Hibbs is one of 10 co-defendants to plead guilty in the case. While she is not expected to testify, Kane said she has told authorities that the money came from O'Brien's drug dealing.
O'Brien, 53, is charged with conspiring with members of the Pagans outlaw motorcycle gang to set up a pill mill operation that generated millions in cash and that poured thousands of doses of oxycodone, methadone, Xanax and Percocet on the streets.
Authorities allege O'Brien pocked $1.8 million during a three-year period when the scheme was operational. They also contend that members of the Pagans were generating $10,00-a-week from the illegal street sale of the drugs obtained through prescriptions O'Brien wrote for dozens of "patients" sent to him by the bikers or their associates.
O'Brien charged $200 cash per visit, investigators contend.
Throughout the now five-week old trial O'Brien has argued that he was unaware his patients were selling the pills that he prescribed. Today's testimony shifted from the scheme to O'Brien's lavish lifestyle.
At one point, Kane said, O'Brien and Hibbs lived in a $1.9 million penthouse on Rittenhouse Square. There was also a home at the Jersey shore and lavish expenditures, documented in part through Hibbs' AmEx credit card which showed purchases of $215,461 during a 30-month period.
These included season tickets to the Flyers and Eagles, over $100,000 in travel expenses, $38,000 for food and beverages and another $49,000 on entertainment.
O'Brien, as he has throughout the trial, claimed that he was wrongly targeted by federal investigators who misinterpreted facts and mishandled the investigation.
When O'Brien challenged Kane's approach, asking if he and others had developed financial profiles of some of the co-defendants including those who worked with or for the Pagans, Kane said, "You were the main target of the investigation as a drug dealer."
In response to another question, Kane said, "My job was to develop evidence of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering, which I did."
He said the $300,000 found in accounts controlled by Hibbs after O'Brien was arrested in January 2015 was part of their drug earnings. O'Brien has argued that the money was Hibbs' and that she had earned it legitimately.
But Kane said after Hibbs agreed to plead guilty, "She admitted that that was money that you gave her that came from drug dealing.".
O'Brien and the investigator then got into a heated discussion about the allegation that he had earned $1.8 million in cash from the drug scheme. If $300,000 had been seized, O'Brien asked, where is the rest of the cash?
"You didn't seize the other $1.5 million?" O'Brien asked.
"We did not," Kane replied.
"Where is it?" the doctor asked.
"You tell me," said the investigator.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.