Sarasota veterinarian charged with prescription fraud

Police allege Dr. Melissa Page was writing prescriptions for a dog but using the medication herself

Photo courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

A 46-year-old Sarasota veterinarian has been charged with two felony counts of Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud, as well as possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia, the Sarasota Police Department has announced.

On May 1, detectives with the Sarasota Police Department Criminal Investigations Division arrested Dr. Melissa Anne Page, of 201 S. Palm Ave., Unit No. 305 in Sarasota, the Probable Cause Affidavit says. She was identified as the owner of Coastal Veterinary Internal Medicine, which is located at 3550 Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

Page’s LinkedIn account says of her practice, “Coastal Veterinary is a hospital that specializes in internal medicine but we also have experience in oncology, cardiology, and management of critically-ill small animals.”

The fraud charges, which date to January and February, involve the allegation that Page was prescribing medication for one of her patients, taking the prescriptions to a nearby Walgreens pharmacy and then providing her personal cell phone number to the pharmacists, so they could contact her when the prescriptions were ready, a news release explains. At the end of each day when she wrote one of those prescriptions, the release adds, Page would stop at that Walgreens to pick it up.

The Probable Cause Affidavit for the cocaine counts explains that officers found that drug on Page and in her vehicle after they “conducted a traffic stop on [her] white Maserati 4-door sedan,” as an arrest warrant had been issued for her. One of the officers found “an unknown pill in Page’s right front [pants] pocket,” while the officer found a “piece of suspected rock cocaine” in her right side pants pocket, plus another piece of suspected rock cocaine in her left front jacket pocket and a pipe “commonly used for smoking crack cocaine” in her bra.
More suspected cocaine rocks were found in a search of the vehicle, that affidavit notes; six were in her purse.

As of the morning of May 9, Page remained in the Sarasota County Jail in downtown Sarasota, as shown in the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division’s records. Her total bond added up to $15,500, the records say.

Her arraignment has been scheduled for June 14, the Corrections Division records note.

This aerial map shows the location of Dr. Melissa Page’s practice and the nearby Walgreens on Fruitville Road. Image from Google Maps

Business partner’s suspicions lead to investigation

The Probable Cause Affidavit for Page explains that Page’s “former business partner,” Alexander Funari, filed a complaint with the Police Department, alleging that she was committing prescription fraud. His dog, Peppie, was one of her patients, the affidavit notes.

“During the investigation,” the affidavit continues, detectives recovered three prescriptions for 8-milligram (mg) hydromorphone tablets that Page had made out for Peppie.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration explains, “Hydromorphone belongs to a class of drugs called ‘opioids,’ which includes morphine. It has an analgesic potency approximately two to eight times greater than that of morphine and has a rapid onset of action.” The DEA adds that the effects of opioids include “[e]uphoria, relaxation, sedation, and reduced anxiety. [They] also may cause mental clouding, changes in mood, nervousness and restlessness.”

One of the prescriptions that Page wrote, the affidavit says, which was dated Jan. 5, was deemed valid; the second, dated Jan. 15, and the third, dated Feb. 2, were deemed fraudulent. Altogether, the affidavit points out, the prescriptions involved 48 pills prescribed in a 29-day period.

On March 28, the affidavit continues, detectives spoke with Funari, who told them that Page had been treating Peppie for a chronic illness.

In January, Funari added, he “agreed to join the business as an investment and to assist Dr. Page with running the practice,” the affidavit says.

The detectives did learn from Walgreens staff that when Page prescribed hydromorphone for Peppie on Jan. 5, Funari picked up that prescription, as he had provided his Florida driver’s license as proof of identification, the affidavit notes.

Then the affidavit points out, “Soon after joining the practice, Funari observed erratic behavior from Dr. Page.” Subsequently, the affidavit says, Funari found a prescription bottle at the clinic that had been issued for Peppie. The affidavit notes that Funari “thought this was odd because he already had a prescription at his residence for Peppie” for the same medication.

This is a view of Page’s veterinary practice. Image from Google Maps

When he “confronted Dr. Page about this additional prescription,” the affidavit adds, “she got upset and refused to speak with him.” Then he went to the Fruitville Road Walgreens that filled the prescription, the affidavit says. He spoke with the pharmacist, “who provided Funari with all of the prescriptions written in Peppie’s name by Dr. Page,” the affidavit continues.

Moreover, the affidavit notes, Funari told the detectives that he learned that Page had changed his account profile with Walgreens, so his point of contact had become “her personal cell phone number.”

After he filed the police report, the affidavit adds, he ceased working with Page.

After the interview with Funari, the affidavit continues, the detectives received a phone call from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, with the caller explaining that the agency had received a complaint from the manager of the Walgreens pharmacy, alleging that Page “was possibly writing fraudulent controlled substance prescriptions for her patients, dogs and cats, and then [was] picking up the prescriptions herself for her personal use.”

The Police Department detectives spoke with the operations manager, Jodryn Wilson, at the Fruitville Road Walgreens, the affidavit adds. “Wilson stated that Dr. Page walks across the plaza parking lot from her clinic and drops off paper prescriptions for controlled substances for her patients.” Given the fact that her patients all are animals, plus the medication involved, Wilson found Page’s actions suspicious, the affidavit explains.

When Page would come into the Walgreens “at the end of the day,” the affidavit continues, she would tell the pharmacist “she was in a rush.”

A Walgreens pharmacist also confirmed to the detectives that Page had changed Funari’s account to include her cell phone number, the affidavit notes.

Prior charges

A News Leader check of 12th Judicial Circuit Court records, maintained by the Office of the Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller found that in July 2023, Page was charged with burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, resulting in no physical harm.

At the time, that Probable Cause Affidavit says, she was living at 5310 Calle Florida on Siesta Key.

The victim in that incident, who was not identified in the affidavit, explained that she was alerted by a surveillance camera within her apartment that a woman and a man were in the apartment. The call came in to the Sheriff’s Office about 7:20 a.m. on July 14, 2023, the affidavit notes.

A red balloon marks the location of the Calle Florida building where Dr. Melissa Page was living on Siesta Key at the time of the 2023 incident. Image from Google Maps

The victim sent the copy of her video to the officer who responded to her call, the affidavit continues. The officer wrote in the narrative that he “observed two people appearing to enter from the sliding door to the left” of the main entrance. “The screen was ripped from its normal state,” the affidavit adds.

During the investigation, the affidavit continues, Page initially denied having ripped the screen; later, after she had been read her Miranda rights, she said that she had done so.

The affidavit says that Page explained to the officer that “she felt the victim was doing something in her apartment which was affecting [Page’s] internet service.” She added that she and the man decided to enter the apartment “to see what was going on in there.”

After the man was seen in the video pointing at the surveillance camera, the affidavit continues, Page unplugged the camera from the wall, along with the modem used to connect it to the internet.

Further, the video showed Page and the male suspect take a teddy bear and tie a piece of string around its neck. They hanged the bear from a wooden cabinet, as seen in the video. When the officer asked Page why they took that action, the affidavit continues, “she stated it was just a stupid thing to scare [the victim].”

Further, the affidavit says that Page told the officer that she took the camera and modem to her apartment and hid them “under some dirty clothes in her laundry basket.”

Officers were not able to find the camera equipment, the affidavit notes.

However, it continues, an officer did find rubber gloves in the waste basket in Page’s kitchen. When the officer asked Page about those, she replied that she used the gloves when she was in the victim’s apartment. When the officer asked her why she used them, “she stated that she is not stupid.”

The surveillance camera was valued at $80, the affidavit adds.

The 12th Judicial Circuit Court docket for that case says that it is scheduled for trial on July 22.

Leave a Comment