Open for business: The Melrose Park Clinic has relocated to this building at 28 E. Burlington St.BOB UPHUES/Staff

A controversial former physician, who had his medical license revoked in 2011 by the state after being accused by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of overprescribing powerful pain medications and trading sex for the drugs, has quietly opened a medical clinic in downtown Riverside.

Joseph Giacchino, whom Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass dubbed “Dr. Millionpills,” based on testimony from a DEA agent in 2010, has rented the non-descript office building at 28 E. Burlington St., reportedly signing a five-year lease for the premises. The clinic opened just after Jan. 1.

Reached last week, Giacchino was quick to point out that he is not allowed to practice medicine, treat patients or prescribe medications. Rather, he said, he was an administrator for the clinic — answering phones, cleaning up and processing paperwork.

“The state has OK’d me to administer a practice,” said Giacchino. “But I have nothing to do with the medical corporation whatsoever.

“I refuse to treat patients.”

Susan Hofer, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said, “The statute is very clear about what constitutes being a doctor. It’s treating patients and calling yourself a doctor. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a landlord or process the paperwork.”

In April 2010, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation filed suit to suspend Giacchino’s medical licenses. In its complaint, the agency accused Giacchino of prescribing large quantities of controlled substances “without therapeutic purpose and without proper evaluations” of patients; offering free medications to a patient in exchange for oral sex; and prescribing medications to patients who would then sell those narcotics on the street.

Kass, in a series of Chicago Tribune columns, documented the court hearings that determined the fate of Giacchino’s medical license, giving him his “Dr. Millionpills” nickname.

Separately, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has documented that in 2012 Giacchino paid out three separate settlements resulting from medical malpractice suits, including one for $300,000 in February of that year.

In June 2011, that department revoked Giacchino’s medical license. The next month, Giacchino filed suit against the agency, charging that he had been deprived of due process and demanding that his license be reinstated.

Giacchino lost that suit but has appealed the ruling to the Illinois Appellate Court. According to a spokesperson at the appellate court, Giacchino has until Feb. 22 to file records for the appeal.

The name of the medical corporation, which is apparently subleasing space that Giacchino has rented in Riverside, is the Melrose Park Clinic, a business long associated with Giacchino.

Until his medical license was suspended by the state in 2010, Giacchino was president of the corporation. Since that time, however, the president of the corporation has been Dr. Paul Madison.

Giacchino last week confirmed that Madison was the doctor treating patients at the new Riverside location. A receptionist who answered the phone referred to the business as the Melrose Park Clinic.

Madison, a pain management specialist who also operates a medical clinic in Michigan City, Ind., has a controversial background of his own.

In December 2012, a federal grand jury handed down a 14-count indictment against Madison and a nurse employed at Madison’s former medical office inside the Water Tower Place shopping mall on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

The indictment accuses Madison of submitting almost $3.6 million in false medical bills to 10 private health insurance companies and the federal worker’s compensation program between 2005 and 2009.

Insurance companies lost almost $800,000 as a result of the fraud scheme, according to the indictment.

Madison and a nurse are also accused of making false statements in patient reports and illegally using patients’ personal information related to the fraud scheme.

On Jan. 3 in U.S. District Court, Madison pleaded not guilty to the charges. Madison is still licensed to practice medicine in Illinois despite the indictment.

Asked if he was at all nervous about the prospect of Madison also losing his right to practice medicine, Giacchino told the Landmark that if that happened, “I’d have to find another doctor to take his place, because I can’t practice or see patients.”

Still, Giacchino said it would likely be 18-24 months before any verdict is reached in the Madison matter. As for any concerns people in Riverside might have about Madison’s medical clinic operating in Riverside, Giacchino said, “We’re trying to keep it as low-key as possible.”

The Melrose Park location was open through the end of 2012 at its longtime home in the Winston Park Plaza shopping center on North Avenue. Giacchino said his lease on the space was up and that the space was getting “too expensive” to operate out of.

“They didn’t terminate the lease,” he said, but simply expired.

Meanwhile, a Riverside physician Giacchino has known for many years, Dr. Hatem Galal, was contemplating retirement and had his office building at 28 E. Burlington St. on the market. According to Galal, he has known Giacchino since the two were residents together at Loyola University Medical Center.

Galal has shared the Riverside office building with two other doctors, a pain specialist and a psychologist. Galal retired at the end of 2012 and the two other practices moved out of the building to make way for Giacchino.

“The building was on the market until [Giacchino] expressed interest in renting it,” said Galal, who added that he would still consider selling the building if he gets the right offer. “At least I’m getting some income.”

Galal declined to go into details of the lease terms other than to say he had not advertised that the building was up for lease and that the deal he signed with Giacchino was “a good lease.”

Giacchino said that the lease was for five years, “with options.”

Asked if he had any reservations renting to someone with such a controversial past, Galal said he was comfortable with his decision.

“He is controversial, but as far as I know, he’s done nothing illegal and is pursuing to get his license back,” Galal said. “I know about what was written in the newspapers, but I don’t discern it. I’m not making my judgment based on newspaper accounts.”

Meanwhile, local police say they are aware of the pain clinic opening at 28 E. Burlington St., and Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said his officers have been told to pay particular attention to it.

In response to an email from Joseph Fosco, who has written several articles about both Giacchino and Madison for an online publication called the American News Post, calling for police to closely monitor the medical clinic, Weitzel said, “A patrol alert has been issued to all officers and sergeants requiring them to pay special attention to this address and the people coming and going from this location.

“I have also been in contact with other police agencies so that we can share information and work together when appropriate,” Weitzel added.

While no criminal activity has been reported related to the clinic, Riverside police last week responded to an emergency call that apparently had a connection to the clinic.

On Jan. 10 just prior to 9 a.m., a resident of the 400 block of Shenstone Road reported that a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt was in his backyard and looked into his back window. The man left the area when the homeowner approached him.

Personnel from the fire department reported seeing a man matching that description at the intersection of Northwood and Delaplaine roads at about 11:20 a.m. Police questioned the man, who changed his story a couple of times before stating that he had been waiting for his girlfriend, who was at 28 E. Burlington St.

Police went to the address and found the female waiting inside a vehicle there. She told police she had an appointment at the clinic, where she got a prescription for the pain medication Norco, which she needs for a bad back.

Both were sent on their way, since police had no evidence of criminal activity taking place.

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