Investigations


Doctors and the opioid crisis: An AJC National Investigation

After Dr. Hasan Babaturk was fired from a medical practice for his erratic behavior, he took his prescription pad and came up with a new business model. He met patients in parking lots, shopping malls and motels, where they paid him $250 to $350 in cash. Babaturk then gave them what they wanted: prescriptions for high doses of oxycodone. “It’s easy money,” the doctor said, explaining...


Watchdog: if your car’s been booted in Georgia, read this

Watchdog: if your car’s been booted in Georgia, read this

Several months ago, I wrote about a legal effort to end booting as a parking enforcement practice in Georgia. Since then I’ve gotten a regular stream of complaints from metro area drivers who are enraged at booting companies and the businesses that hire them. I told many of them I would keep an eye out to see if state lawmakers addressed the issue. They have, but not as I expected. ...
Real estate agent bilked investors of millions, feds say

Real estate agent bilked investors of millions, feds say

Every which way she could, an Atlanta real estate agent bilked a group of foreign investors out of millions of dollars, the government alleges in a criminal complaint.  She embezzled some $930,000. Inflated sale prices to pocket another $1.1 million. But the big money, a criminal complaint alleges, came from even more brazen schemes. She fleeced investors of $8 million with phantom property sales...
Georgia man sues Amazon after hoverboard fire destroys home

Georgia man sues Amazon after hoverboard fire destroys home

Irvin R. Love was searching Amazon for the perfect Christmas gift for his girlfriend’s daughter when a hoverboard popped up at a bargain price. But the $264 hoverboard that was supposed to make Christmas 2015 special ended up torching Love’s Georgia home and leaving him so badly injured that doctors resorted to placing cadaver skin over his severe burns, according to a new lawsuit. The...
How much did Gov. Deal know about his state dental board pick?

How much did Gov. Deal know about his state dental board pick?

Dale G. Mayfield, an executive for the Kool Smiles chain of dental clinics, filled out an application to be on Georgia’s dental licensing board in February 2016. Three days later, Gov. Nathan Deal issued an order appointing him to the Georgia Board of Dentistry. “Mayfield is the chief dental officer of Kool Smiles,” Deal’s news release said. But if anyone had bothered...
Georgia Tech investigating sexual assault claims against coach Josh Pastner

Georgia Tech investigating sexual assault claims against coach Josh Pastner

Georgia Tech opened an investigation Friday into allegations its men’s basketball coach sexually assaulted an Arizona woman. The school said it would hire an “outside, independent” investigator to look into charges against second-year coach Josh Pastner. He was accused in a lawsuit filed Thursday of assaulting or harassing the woman more than a dozen times in 2016. “We...
Governor’s office silent on how board pick was vetted

Governor’s office silent on how board pick was vetted

The accusations in the media and in lawsuits were shocking: Needlessly drilling into baby teeth. Filling children’s mouths with stainless-steel crowns they didn’t need. Strapping patients down on boards, so their writhing wouldn’t interfere with the pace of work — all so the company could soak up as many Medicaid dollars as possible. “My baby was in pain. And she was...
Fayette 911 center controversy debated in marathon meeting

Fayette 911 center controversy debated in marathon meeting

Fayette County administrators are standing behind their embattled 911 director, Bernard “Buster” Brown following a 7-hour meeting Thursday where current 911 employees defended him against charges of harassment. Others, including former center employees, restated their complaints against Brown, signaling the controversy is not over yet. The meeting came amid complaints from former...
A Georgia mother’s struggle to unmask a beloved coach as a predator

A Georgia mother’s struggle to unmask a beloved coach as a predator

At first, she thought of Ron Gorman as a godsend.  They met when she was recently separated from her husband and new to Cobb County. Her son, who was starting middle school, had joined the wrestling team on which Gorman was a volunteer coach. Immediately, the sympathetic Gorman seemed to adopt her son into his own brood, including him in family dinners and day trips, paying for things she couldn&rsquo...
Hundreds of Georgia cops suspended over training shortfalls

Hundreds of Georgia cops suspended over training shortfalls

Policing the police in Georgia is a busy job this time of year. Nearly 500 law enforcement officers across the state are receiving emergency suspension letters this week from the agency that certifies law enforcement officers. When they hit mailboxes, the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training  (P.O.S.T.) council expects to hear from scores of panicked officers concerned about losing their...
Fayette commission to discuss allegations of 911 director’s conduct

Fayette commission to discuss allegations of 911 director’s conduct

Former employees of the Fayette County 911 Center have come forward with claims of verbally abusive, harassing and degrading treatment they received at the hands of the center’s current director, Bernard “Buster” Brown. The controversy around Brown’s management of the center became public in December when former employees brought their complaints to the Board of Commissioners...
Did Georgia go easy on a dangerous doctor?

Did Georgia go easy on a dangerous doctor?

The same week that Dr. Larry Nassar’s abuse of young gymnasts made national headlines — with one victim after another coming forward to publicly describe his sexual abuse — a former Georgia doctor sat in a courtroom hundreds of miles away. Like Nassar, Dr. Paul Harnetty was facing charges involving the way he touched patients during medical exams. The ob-gyn was practicing...
For total power loss, airport says it has a plan, but it doesn't *have* the plan

For total power loss, airport says it has a plan, but it doesn't *have* the plan

It's official. The plan for a total power outage that Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport insisted it had prior to December's 11-hour blackout is not in the airport's possession. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked to see it, under the state's open records act, after an airport news release said the plan was contained in a standard operating procedure chapter called "emergency...
Prison hospital doctor resigns, cites security, patient care concerns

Prison hospital doctor resigns, cites security, patient care concerns

The unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Georgia’s state prison hospital have caused one of its most experienced physicians to quit with a blistering letter that details the facility’s problems and describes how he faced “smoldering and overt hostility” when he tried to correct them. Dr. Timothy Young informed his supervisors at Georgia Correctional HealthCare of his decision...
Amid Medicaid fraud case, GA put accused dentist on a regulatory panel

Amid Medicaid fraud case, GA put accused dentist on a regulatory panel

"The fox guards the henhouse" in Georgia. That’s how a critic sees the appointment of a top officer of a Marietta-based company to a state disciplinary board. In 2016, Gov. Nathan Deal put Dale G. Mayfield on the Georgia Board of Dentistry, where he helped make decisions about licensing, sanctioning and regulating fellow dentists. But while he served, Mayfield – chief dental...
Watchdog: Alt-right activist gives Trump mixed first-year review

Watchdog: Alt-right activist gives Trump mixed first-year review

President Donald Trump was accused of racism and appealing to white supremacists throughout his 2016 campaign, and those accusations continued through his first year in office. But inside the alt-right — a loosely defined movement of young, white racial ideologues — activists are still waiting on the president to make good on promised massive deportations and a wall along the southern...
Governor forces dentist off state regulatory board

Governor forces dentist off state regulatory board

For years, his company has been under fire over allegations its dentists performed painful, unnecessary work on children in a scheme to bilk Medicaid. Yet Kool Smiles’ chief dental officer, Dale G. Mayfield, since 2016 had a say in how dentists were being licensed and regulated all over Georgia. Then Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal asked for and got Mayfield’s resignation. The action came as...
The agony of ER waits: Flu season is making them worse

The agony of ER waits: Flu season is making them worse

Headed to the ER? Well, so are a lot of other people, with one of the worst flu seasons in years sickening people across Georgia. So, pack a sandwich and think about bringing a pillow, since your wait for treatment in one of Atlanta's ERs may be a long one. At WellStar Health System, which operates hospitals across metro Atlanta, its emergency rooms are currently seeing 27 to 30 percent more flu patients...
Guns are legal in parks. So why did police ban them at Peach Drop?

Guns are legal in parks. So why did police ban them at Peach Drop?

Atlanta city officials had two concerns as they prepared for the first New Year’s Eve Peach Drop at Woodruff Park. First, it was going to be bone-chillingly cold. Second, the event was a soft target — an attractive venue for terrorists, foreign and domestic. As a result, officials told revelers to bundle up and abide by security restrictions. Attendees were subject to search and all...
Whistleblower cases cost Fulton taxpayers $575,000, and counting

Whistleblower cases cost Fulton taxpayers $575,000, and counting

It was a brazen scheme by a mid-level Fulton County employee to help fund a side business with taxpayer money. Nicola Hosier, a former financial systems supervisor in the Human Services Department, used her county-issued credit card to buy linens, chairs, place settings, appliances, silverware, champagne flutes and other items for her private event-planning business, Exquisite Events Atlanta LLC,...
AJC editor appears on Dr. Oz today to discuss opioid investigation

AJC editor appears on Dr. Oz today to discuss opioid investigation

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s national investigation of doctors who overprescribe opioids will be featured on today’s episode of the Dr. Oz show. AJC Editor Kevin Riley will appear as a guest on today’s show to discuss the newspaper’s groundbreaking series. The investigation found that America’s doctors continue to flood the nation with opioids, years after...
Whistleblower cases cost Fulton County taxpayers $575K, and counting

Whistleblower cases cost Fulton County taxpayers $575K, and counting

It was a brazen scheme by a mid-level Fulton County employee to fund a side business using taxpayer money. Nicola Hosier, a former financial systems supervisor in the Human Services Department, used her county-issued credit card to buy linens, chairs, place settings, silverware and dishes for her private event planning business, Exquisite Events Atlanta LLC, which she co-owned with three other county...
Atlanta couple accused of smuggling steroids

Atlanta couple accused of smuggling steroids

An Atlanta man already under criminal indictment for making supplements spiked with steroids is facing new charges that he and his wife smuggled steroids and other dangerous substances into the U.S. In the scheme, more than 50 kilograms of so-called designer steroids were hidden under legitimate compounds shipped from China, according to a federal indictment that supersedes one handed down in...
Many Georgia prescribers miss pill-tracking deadline

Many Georgia prescribers miss pill-tracking deadline

A third of Georgia’s physicians and half of the state’s dentists failed to meet the Jan. 1 deadline to register for the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, a crucial tool in the state’s effort to combat the opioid crisis. A state law passed last year required all of the state’s prescribers to create accounts with the pill-tracking database, which doctors...
Capitol scorecard: Ga. ethics reform five years later

Capitol scorecard: Ga. ethics reform five years later

Five years ago, state lawmakers convened in Atlanta and set about the task of ethics reform with the enthusiasm of teenagers told to clean their rooms. For years, lobbyists were allowed to give unlimited gifts of any value to public officials as long as they reported them. But a prolonged pressure campaign by “good government” groups and embarrassing media exposure pushed lawmakers...
Watchdog: New tax bill bad for Georgia’s film workers

Watchdog: New tax bill bad for Georgia’s film workers

Union officials are warning that the Republican tax overhaul rewards the rich while soaking the working class. Yeah, we’ve heard it before, but the union I’m talking about represents a fast-growing part of the state economy: the entertainment industry. “There is a lot of anxiety going on right now,” said Chuck Thomas, an Atlanta-based screenwriter and co-host of the Atlanta...
Evangelist from Elaine Boyer’s kickback scheme dies of heart failure

Evangelist from Elaine Boyer’s kickback scheme dies of heart failure

Rooks Boynton, the evangelist accused of helping former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer funnel tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars into her own pockets, has died of congestive heart failure, according to his obituary. Boynton, 75, died the day after Christmas and four months after federal prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges against him of federal program theft and federal program theft...
Secret recordings cost Ga. prison hospital administrator his job

Secret recordings cost Ga. prison hospital administrator his job

The top administrator at the state’s troubled prison hospital has been forced out of his job after being caught secretly recording conversations with other corrections officials on his state-issued cell phone, documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show. Randy Brown, the health services administrator at Augusta State Medical Prison since 2004, abruptly retired on Dec. 8 after...
Georgia patients still at risk from hospital-acquired infections

Georgia patients still at risk from hospital-acquired infections

Years after public health officials declared war on hospital-acquired infections, Georgia still lags behind other states at protecting patients from dangerous conditions they can develop while being treated for something else. When it comes to life-threatening bloodstream infections that come from central lines inserted into a large vein for care, Georgia ranks among the worst in the nation, according...
Mother questions son’s unexplained death in state psychiatric hospital

Mother questions son’s unexplained death in state psychiatric hospital

On Christmas morning last year, Dorothy Berry got the gift she hadn’t dared wish for. Her only son was coming home. Matthew Bohler had been locked up — first in jail, then in a state psychiatric hospital — for six months since his arrest during a psychotic episode. But on Christmas, he called Berry to say he would be released a few days later. He never made it home. Early on...
Botched response turns airport outage into city embarrassment

Botched response turns airport outage into city embarrassment

One thing was clear from the start: Something went terribly wrong. Firefighters arrived beneath Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Sunday at 1:04 p.m. to find black smoke and toxic fumes choking a utility tunnel as long as 4,000 feet. They tried to peer inside, but it was impenetrable. “In my 28 years, I’ve never seen a fire this intense down in a tunnel area,&rdquo...
Ga. doctor prescribed weight-loss drug to patients she never saw

Ga. doctor prescribed weight-loss drug to patients she never saw

For more than two decades, Dr. Jan McBarron has been one of the country’s most outspoken physicians in calling out traditional medicine for its reliance on prescription drugs. Across multiple platforms, including a series of books and a nationally syndicated radio program, the Columbus weight-loss specialist has regularly expounded on how vitamins, herbs and other natural products can be...
Georgia among last states to post nursing home investigation reports

Georgia among last states to post nursing home investigation reports

Obamacare mandates it. The feds gave state health agencies eight years to get it done. But with a deadline days away, Georgia still hasn’t posted all the required records online that could help families steer clear of the worst nursing homes. A little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act requires every state to have a user-friendly website with links to enforcement records for every skilled...
Zero communication

Zero communication

His family missed their flight for a Hawaiian vacation because of Sunday’s Atlanta airport nightmare. So the exasperated dad hammered out a list of questions and emailed them to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — questions that speak to the excruciating ordeal suffered by tens of thousands of travelers, and how the city left them in the dark, literally and figuratively. Why leave planes...
How the airport debacle unfolded

How the airport debacle unfolded

For hours, passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport were kept literally and figuratively in the dark about what was happening, as lights were out, smoke wafted through concourses and planes were stuck on the tarmac. Here’s how events unfolded. 12:38 p.m. - Georgia Power is alerted to “multiple faults” on its network at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. 1:32...
Vogtle saga puts Georgia Power’s clout in spotlight

Vogtle saga puts Georgia Power’s clout in spotlight

What Georgia Power sold to state legislators wasn’t just a deal. It was the future. Clean, renewable nuclear energy. No climate-changing hydrocarbon emissions. No worries about volatility in the global supply of natural gas. All lawmakers had to do, according to the state’s largest and most influential utility, was approve a new way to finance construction of two new nuclear reactors at...
How SCAD sells a dream

How SCAD sells a dream

The best-paid college president of 2014 walked the red carpet, ready for her close-up. The limelight is a familiar place for Paula Wallace, president of the Savannah College of Art and Design. On this evening last year, she posed for photographers with her husband at the school’s annual film festival. Often, she appears beside a celebrity visiting SCAD, as the school is known. It might...
Atlanta weather: Friday’s traffic no SnowJam, but painful all the same

Atlanta weather: Friday’s traffic no SnowJam, but painful all the same

Metro Atlanta averted another traffic disaster from a few inches of snow — but just barely. Friday’s winter storm had all the ingredients for a sequel to the region’s “Snowjam ‘14,” when a mere 2.6 inches of snow paralyzed the region and turned the area into a national laughingstock. By early afternoon, snowfall had already surpassed predictions. Schools...
Georgia medical board easy on opioid violators

Georgia medical board easy on opioid violators

Dr. Nevorn Askari started out as a pediatrician, not a drug dealer. But after getting busted for Medicaid fraud, this Emory University-trained doctor chose another path. She accepted a part-time job at a “pain clinic” operating out of a rundown Atlanta house. She saw 40 patients a day and most left happy, even though they waited hours for exams and spent only 5 or 10 minutes with the doctor...
Backlog of Ga. prison medical requests may put inmates’ health at risk

Backlog of Ga. prison medical requests may put inmates’ health at risk

Thousands of Georgia prison inmates, including some who could be gravely ill, have yet to undergo recommended tests or consult with specialists because of a massive backlog in the Department of Corrections’ approval process, documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reveal. As of last week, nearly 2,750 orders for inmates to see oncologists, cardiologists and other specialists or...
Doctors rethink pain treatment

Doctors rethink pain treatment

Dr. Don Teater didn’t start out declaring war on opioids. In fact, as a small town family doctor, he prescribed them. “I heard the message from the pharmaceutical industry and the government and others that we weren’t treating pain well enough, that we need to prescribe more opioids — and that it was very safe,” Teater said. So, like most doctors in America, he embraced...
Journalist’s conviction reveals deep mistrust of media in Trump era

Journalist’s conviction reveals deep mistrust of media in Trump era

This week, a Dawson County jury acquitted citizen-journalist Nydia Tisdale of felony charges of obstruction of an officer three years after she was dragged screaming from a GOP political rally at a local pumpkin farm. Tisdale was convicted on misdemeanor obstruction charges and still faces the prospect of jail time or a fine, but the verdict came as a modest relief to advocates for press freedoms...
L.A. lawsuit accuses Atlanta-based LogistiCare of putting patients in peril

L.A. lawsuit accuses Atlanta-based LogistiCare of putting patients in peril

A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles blasts the way Atlanta-based LogistiCare handles medical transportation for millions of Medicaid patients in the nation's most populous county. The complaint describes sickly patients waiting for hours to be picked up for medical appointments. It says subcontracting van companies, which do the actual driving, do the work for cheap using inadequate vehicles. It cites...
More AJC Investigates Stories