WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Nine months after Jeff George admitted to killing Joey Bartolucci by giving him access to massive quantities of powerful narcotics, the Wellington pill mill kingpin was ordered to pay the 24-year-old West Palm Beach man's family $5.3 million.
The jury verdict for Bartolucci's mother, Gina, and his sister, Jennifer Moyles, came after a one-sided trial that lasted less than a day. An attorney representing Bartolucci's family detailed for jurors how George's callous actions led to the aspiring paramedic's 2009 overdose death. George was not in the courtroom and didn't hire an attorney to represent him.
Like nearly a half-dozen others who pleaded guilty in connection with one of the biggest prescription drug rackets in the nation, George last week turned himself in to a federal prison. Last Friday, he began serving a 15 1/2-year sentence after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to racketeering conspiracy for operating pill mills in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
While he pleaded guilty in August to second-degree murder in connection with Bartolucci's death, he is still awaiting sentencing in state court. As part of his plea deal in federal court, he agreed to help prosecutors convict others involved in the far-reaching operation that is blamed for more than 50 deaths. Among the few still awaiting trial is Dr. Gerald Klein, a Palm Beach Gardens man who is also charged with murder in connection with Bartolucci's death.
Neither Bartolucci's mother or sister or their attorney returned phone calls for comment about the jury's decision.
In what clearly inflamed his family, George famously denied responsibility for the overdose deaths of those who frequented his clinics.
"I bought my Lamborghini four years ago," he told The Palm Beach Post before his arrest last summer. "If I wreck it, am I going to hold the Lamborghini dealership responsible?"
When given a chance to speak after George pleaded guilty in state court, Moyles questioned George's heartless comment, saying he obviously cared more about his Lamborghini than human life. "I will never understand," she said, "why you've done the hateful and greedy things you've done."
George did apologize to Moyles and her mother. "I'll live with this for the rest of my life," he told them. "I promise I will do whatever I can in the future to honor the memory of your son."
It is doubtful that George has the money to pay the judgment. He, his twin brother, Christopher, his mother and sister-in-law and others who operated the clinics were forced to forfeit the fruits of the illegal enterprise. The judge ordered them to forfeit $40 million, along with watches, jewlery, homes and other property. Jeff George was also ordered to pay $4.7 million in restitution.
Of the 33 who were indicted, all but five have pleaded guilty. Apart from Klein, two other doctors are awaiting trial in federal court on various charges in connection with their work at the clinics. Two doctors died after they were indicted.