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Former MMA columnist found guilty of federal drug charges

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A former MMA medical consultant/columnist may receive a life sentence for possessing and distributing opioids.

A former MMA media member has been found guilty of five drug charges by a jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Dr. Johnny Benjamin, most notably of MMAJunkie, was also found not guilty on weapons charges according to TCPalm.

Benjamin, 53, is an orthopedic surgeon who practiced at Pro Spine Center in Vero Beach. He had been featured on MMAJunkie.com since at least 2009. In addition to contributing his own articles, Benjamin was regularly interviewed in a column called “Ask the Fight Doc”. Benjamin’s most recent article for that outlet was published on May 22nd, 2017. In his recent articles Benjamin is listed as MMAJunkie’s medical columnist and consultant”.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had been investigating Benjamin since September 2016. This came after a woman died of an overdose due to furanylfentanyl-laced pills. After that death, the DEA used an informant, Zachary Stewart, to secretly film Benjamin conspiring to distribute the same pills that had caused the overdose.

During the trial, jurors watched the footage of Benjamin and Stewart outside of Pro Spine Center handling a bag containing 4,000 fake pills provide by the DEA. Stewart calls the drugs “blues”, which is code for counterfeit Oxycodone pills that are actually packed with fentanyl (an opioid that can be 50 times more powerful than heroin).

“It ain’t like the (expletive) we had through Kevan where the (expletive) girl croaked,” said Stewart in the video; according to TCPalm.

A day after the undercover taping, Benjamin was stopped at Melbourne-Orlando International Airport before he could board a flight to Philadelphia. He was found in possession of the counterfeit pills supplied by Stewart. He was arrested six days later.

 Florida Department of Justice
Weapons found at Benjamin’s home.

Police then raided a storage space belonging to Benjamin. Inside they found a fentanyl-coated scale, several pill bottles, a large box of documents, and firearms. TCPalm reports that more than 20 firearms were also seized from Benjamin’s vehicle and home.

Stewart and Kevan Slater, another DEA informant, pleaded guilty and confessed to working with Benjamin to acquire and distribute synthetic opiods throughout 2016. They claimed they did this by obtaining phony prescriptions from Benjamin. The pair would then receive drugs from various pharmacies in Vero Beach and return them to Benjamin for later distribution.

Benjamin received his five guilty verdicts (stemming from seven drug charges) on April 27th. The guilty verdicts relate to charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute furanylfentanyl, possessing acetyl fentanyl with the intent to distribute, and possessing oxycodone with the intent to distribute.

He was found not guilty of possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. The court determined that Benjamin’s extensive weapon collection were hobby items only and not connected to his criminal activities.

Benjamin now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. However, he may receive a life sentence and millions of dollars in fines when he is formerly sentenced in July.

“We are very happy with the jury’s verdict of guilty,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney John McMillan, who prosecuted the case (per TCPalm). “A young woman’s life was lost due to the defendant misusing his talents as a physician, and such activity surely deserves a heavy punishment.”

Prior to being investigated for drug trafficking, Benjamin maintained a connection to combat sports and MMA media that went beyond his column on MMAJunkie. In 2009 he was profiled in an ESPN article titled ‘Meet Dr. Johnny Benjamin’. In 2013 Benjamin was also interviewed by Bloody Elbow.

In the 1990s Benjamin provided pre-fight medical services to boxers Antonio Tarver, Laila Ali, and Arturo Gatti (per ESPN). According to his signature on MMAJunkie, Benjamin was also a member of the Association of Boxing Commissions’ MMA Medical Subcommittee.

In recent years, deaths from opioid use have surged dramatically in the United States and Canada. The US National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that currently more than 115 people in the US die of opioid overdoses everyday.


If you or someone you know if affected by substance abuse, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). It’s free, confidential, and open 24/7.

Provincial helplines in Canada can be found here via the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

There are a number of UK based helplines for drug and alcohol abuse. They are listed here by the National Health Service.

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TheUnchosenOne
10 days ago
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I'd been wandering what happened to Dr. Johnny Benjamin and welp now I have my answer
Madison, WI
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Resurrecting the dead doesn’t lessen the impact of Avengers: Infinity War

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Permanence has nothing to do with whether a story beat is meaningful

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TheUnchosenOne
11 days ago
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The problem isn't impermanence, it's the certainty with which we know it will happen
Madison, WI
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Today’s SEC filing suggests MoviePass’ time is running out

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Subscription service MoviePass hasn’t been having a great 2018. Constant changes to its terms of service have created a growing sense of uncertainty about what customers actually get with their MoviePass subscriptions. The company’s flagship tier was scuttled, then brought back without any real explanation. And in April, an independent auditor for MoviePass parent company Helios & Matheson Analytics raised alarm bells by expressing “substantial doubt” that the company could stay in business. Bloomberg reports that an SEC filing today largely confirms that assessment, with Helios & Matheson acknowledging it has just $15.5 million in the bank, even though it’s been blowing through more than $21 million per month on average over the past...

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TheUnchosenOne
12 days ago
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I mean, yeah, obviously MoviePass's business model isn't sustainable
Madison, WI
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What would the MCU look like if Marvel didn’t undo Avengers: Infinity War?

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Warning: Major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War lie ahead.

Everybody knew there would be deaths in Avengers: Infinity War. Nobody was prepared for how many. But now that the world has collectively gasped as hero after hero disappeared in Infinity War’s final moments, everybody knows they’re bound to come back, and that we shouldn’t take their deaths seriously. This is a comic book movie, and Marvel’s films operate by comic book logic that dictates no death lasts forever, except formative ones like Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben. (Plus, many of the affected characters have upcoming movies that were announced long ago.)

The only problem: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who wrote Infinity War and its still-untitled sequel, have said we s...

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TheUnchosenOne
12 days ago
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lol
Madison, WI
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Amazon will now deliver packages to the trunk of your car

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Last year, Amazon asked for permission to unlock your front door so it could leave packages inside your home, and a certain number of extremely trusting Amazon Prime subscribers (Amazon won’t say how many) said okay. Now, the tech giant wants to do the same thing with your car.

Amazon announced today a new service that gives its couriers access to a person’s vehicle for the purpose of leaving package deliveries inside. But rather than use smart locks and a cloud-connected camera to gain entry, Amazon wants to use the connected technologies embedded in many modern vehicles today. The company is launching this new service in partnership with two major automakers — General Motors and Volvo — and will be rolling out in 37 cities in the US...

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TheUnchosenOne
26 days ago
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NO THEY ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT
Madison, WI
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Wonderboy: I’m still ranked no. 1, why am I not fighting for interim belt?

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Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson admits he is upset with not being granted an interim welterweight title fight

According to the official UFC rankings, Stephen Thompson is the number one contender in the welterweight division. And while current champion Tyron Woodley remains uncertain about his return, the UFC decided to put up an interim title fight between former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and the controversial Colby Covington.

During a recent interview on the MMA Hour, “Wonderboy” expressed his displeasure with the making of this matchup.

“I’m upset. Being the number-one contender, why am I not fighting for the interim title? It makes no sense,” Thompson said (via MMA Fighting). “I know that I fought for the title twice. And the first fight was amazing — we got ‘Fight of the Night,’ we fought to a draw — but the second fight, people weren’t impressed with it.”

“But I’m still the number one contender, so why aren’t I fighting for the interim title? Why isn’t the number two guy fighting the number one? It just doesn’t make sense, it’s like they’re not going by the rankings anymore,” he added. “Obviously I’m upset, but it is what it is, there’s no changing it now.”

On the flipside, Thompson did get a new deal, which he seems to be completely satisfied with.

“We had some negotiations back and forth with UFC and I am happy with what’s going on in my new contract,” Thompson told Ariel Helwani. “It’s definitely an incentive to go out there and do it.”

“Of course, I’m not in the game for the money, but if the UFC is pushing something you really don’t want or that doesn’t make sense, you can kind of play the game with them a little bit. We did that and we kind of got what we wanted, so we’re gonna go out there and have some fun with smiles on our faces.”

Thompson is currently scheduled to fight Darren Till on May 27th in Liverpool.

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TheUnchosenOne
27 days ago
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The only response to this is "Hey you're right, you SHOULDN'T be the number 1 contender, let's fix that"
Madison, WI
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