UPDATE 12/5/12 @ 11:30 a.m.
CINCINNATI, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A former doctor at a “pill mill” owned and operated by a couple from West Portsmouth, Ohio has learned her prison sentence.
Brenda Banks, 59, of Columbus, Ohio, worked at Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Wavery. The clinic was owned and operated by Nancy Sadler, 49, and her husband, Lester, aka “Ape”, Sadler, 56, both of West Portsmouth.
Banks was named in a 2010 indictment that alleged Ohio Medical and Pain Management employees filled dozens of cash-only prescriptions a day.
She pleaded guilty in April to one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or misrepresentation.
Banks was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison, the maximum allowed under law, followed by one year of supervised release.
Earlier this week, Nancy Sadler was sentenced to 210 months in federal prison for operating the clinic. Her husband, Lester, was sentenced to more than 12-and-a-half years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
“The crimes committed caused and enabled countless drug addictions throughout the Portsmouth area, which created innumerable other social problems for the ‘patients’ and their families,” U.S. Attorney Stewart said. “For many years, the clinic operated by the Sadlers was one of the primary sources for illegally-distributed pain pills in that region. Considering the scope of the prescription pill problem in Southern Ohio and the role that Nancy Sadler has played in that epidemic for the better part of a decade, a substantial sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime and can help deter others from engaging in this activity.”
Following a ten-day trial in May, a jury convicted the Sadlers of engaging in a conspiracy to divert controlled substances (namely, addictive prescription pain medications), maintaining premises for such illegal distribution, wire fraud to obtain pills directly from distributors, and structuring financial transactions with the proceeds of their drug dealing. The Sadlers have been in custody since the jury convicted them.
“Nancy Sadler was the founder, manager, and driving force behind a pain clinic that sold pain pill prescriptions to addicts for years,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Mangan wrote in a document filed with the court prior to sentencing. “She also orchestrated the fraudulent purchase and resale of these drugs on the street.”
Lester Sadler was listed as the owner of the clinic. Nancy Sadler was prohibited from owning the clinic because of a prior wire fraud conviction in connection with a Kentucky pain clinic.
Judge Beckwith also approved a personal money judgment of $1.8 million against the Sadlers. The amount was based on trial testimony indicating that the Sadlers were making $900,000 a year at the clinic.
Two others charged with the Sadlers have been sentenced. Lisa Clevenger, 50, of Stoutsville, and a sister of Nancy Sadler, pleaded guilty on February 29, 2012 to one count of maintaining drug-involved premises and was sentenced on November 27 to two years probation which includes the first eight months in home confinement. Lester Sadler’s father, James Sadler, 80, of West Portsmouth, pleaded guilty on December 20, 2011 to one count of conspiracy and was sentenced on November 26 to one day in prison with credit for time served and two years of supervised release.
Prosecutors pushing for the sentence argued that Nancy Sadler of West Portsmouth had so little regard for the law that she boosted painkiller sales when she needed a new car, gambled away clinic profits at casinos and burned clinic records when a search warrant was imminent.
Cincinnati federal Judge Sandra Beckwith sentenced Sadler to 17-and-a-half years in prison Tuesday and recommended a 500-hour drug treatment program.
Sadler was found guilty earlier this year for her role in the illegal distribution of painkiller prescriptions through Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly.
Sadler's husband, Lester, was sentenced Monday to 12-and-a-half years in prison on similar charges.
Prosecutors pushing for the sentence argued that 59-year-old Lester, aka “Ape”, Sadler of West Portsmouth enforced a rule that the clinic see at least 40 cash-only patients a day, got his elderly father involved in a prescription forging scheme and joined his wife in burning records.
Cincinnati federal Judge Sandra Beckwith sentenced Sadler to 12 ½ years in prison Monday and recommended a 500-hour drug treatment program.
Sadler was found guilty earlier this year for his role in the illegal distribution of painkiller prescriptions through Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly.
Sadler's wife, Nancy, faces even more years in prison at her sentencing Tuesday following her conviction in May.
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Prosecutors have recommended a 12 1/2-year sentence for 56-year-old Lester aka “Ape”, Sadler when he is sentenced Monday, and a 17 1/2-year sentence for his wife, 49-year-old Nancy Sadler, whose sentencing is Tuesday.
Investigators say the couple's Ohio Medical and Pain Management clinic in Waverly was responsible for the sale of illegal painkiller prescriptions in the region.
In May, a he U.S. District Court Jury in Cincinnati found the husband and wife guilty of operating Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly as a continuing criminal enterprise, a crime punishable by at least 20 years, and up to life, in prison.
The Sadler’s' attorneys are pushing for lesser sentences citing the couple's health problems and blame others for the clinic's problems.
On November 26, Beckwith sentenced Lester Sadler's 82-year-old father, James, to one day in prison for his role as what's known as a clinic runner, in which he allegedly took painkiller prescriptions to a pharmacy knowing that some of them had been faked.
The judge sentenced Nancy Sadler's sister, Lisa Clevenger, to two years of probation, with the first eight months to be served in home confinement.
Lisa Clevenger pleaded guilty in March to one count of maintaining a drug premises in connection with her work at Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly.
The sentence handed down Tuesday by Cincinnati federal judge Sandra Beckwith requires the first eight months to be served on home confinement.
Clevenger was an employee at the pain clinic operated by her sister and brother-in-law, where prosecutors said she played a minor role but was aware of how the clinic operated.
A message was left with Clevenger's attorney seeking comment.
Federal prosecutors say the couple's argument ignores significant evidence presented at trial.
They say Nancy and Lester Sadler of West Portsmouth acted as the owners of a southern Ohio pain management clinic, paid the bills, paid for painkillers and pushed for a high number of patients.
The Sadlers are facing up to life in prison because of their conviction of operating the clinic as a continuing criminal enterprise,
The Sadlers say the government failed to prove its case.
Nancy and Lester Sadler of West Portsmouth are facing a minimum of 20 years in prison and the possibility of life for their conviction last month, including operating Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly as a continuing criminal enterprise.
Attorneys for the couple say prosecutors failed beyond a reasonable doubt to prove the couple committed three different acts needed for the criminal enterprise conviction.
A federal jury in Cincinnati deadlocked in its deliberations last month before a federal judge ordered them to keep trying.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment, but it's likely the government will oppose the Sadlers' request.
The U.S. District Court Jury in Cincinnati found Nancy Sadler, 49, of West Portsmouth, Ohio, and her husband, Lester Sadler, aka “Ape”, 56, guilty of operating Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly as a continuing criminal enterprise, a crime punishable by at least 20 years, and up to life, in prison.
The jury also convicted the couple on one count each of conspiracy and maintaining a premise for the purpose of distributing drugs.
Nancy Sadler was also found guilty on one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering for the illegal purchase and sale of 40,200 units of hydrocodone in order to purchase a convertible. Each of those crimes is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Following the verdict, the Sadlers were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals. No word on a sentencing date.
The jury acquitted employee Sandy Wells.
The government is seeking forfeiture of $1.8 million based on testimony presented during the trial that the Sadlers were making $900,000 a year at the clinic.
According to a news release, testimony was presented during the trial that the clinic was usually open three or four days per week. New customers were normally charged $180 for the initial visit. Returning customers were charged $125 to $150 per visit. Witnesses testified that the customers received no genuine examination by a physician. Instead, the clinic staff would often prepare the medical charts and prescription forms in advance, sit the customer down with the physician, and then the physician would sign the prescription at her desk.
Three others that were charged in the indictment that was returned in August 2010 have pleaded guilty. Nancy Sadler's sister Lisa Clevenger, 50, of Stoutsville, pleaded guilty on February 29, to one count of maintaining drug-involved premises.
Lester Sadler’s father, James Sadler, 80, of West Portsmouth, pleaded guilty on December 20, 2011, to one count of conspiracy.
Brenda Banks, 59, of Columbus, Ohio, formerly a physician at the clinic, pleaded guilty on April 30, to one count of acquiring or possessing a controlled substance through deception, punishable by up to four years in prison. All three are awaiting sentencing.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday for husband-and-wife Nancy and Lester Sadler and Sandy Wells, an employee of the Sadlers at a clinic in Pike County.
The government alleges the trio illegally distributed prescription painkillers at a clinic where employees were forced to maintain quotas of how many patients were seen a week.
Federal prosecutors alleged that in the months after the initial 2010 indictment, the Sadlers continued to operate a second clinic 90 miles north in Columbus.
The government says at least one patient died from an overdose of painkillers obtained from that clinic.
In a related case, an ex-Ohio doctor has pleaded guilty to illegally using her medical license in a scheme to distribute hundreds of thousands of painkillers.
Monday's guilty plea by Brenda Banks comes one day before three of her co-defendants in an alleged pill mill case go on trial.
Banks is pleading guilty to an updated charge that alleged she helped clinic operators and employees use her medical license to order nearly 220,000 pills of the painkiller hydrocodone.
Banks worked at Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly.
She was indicted in 2010.
Federal prosecutors allege customers would travel 200 miles on round-trip visits to the clinic to obtain illegally prescribed pain pills.
Lisa Clevenger on Wednesday pleaded guilty to one count of maintaining a drug premises in connection with her work at Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly.
The charge carries up to a 20-year prison sentence, but Clevenger's plea agreement notes that prosecutors could ask for a shorter sentence as long as she cooperates with an ongoing investigation.
Authorities say Clevenger is the sister of the clinic's primary owner, who has also been charged.
A 2010 indictment against James Sadler and other operators of Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly alleged that in some cases customers traveled more than 200 miles round trip to be treated at the southern Ohio clinic.
Sadler pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of diverting controlled substances at a hearing in federal court in Cincinnati.
His plea agreement says Sadler, who faces 20 years in prison, took money and prescriptions to pharmacies that would fill them, then returned to the clinic with the pills.
Sadler is free on his own recognizance. His attorney did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday
A 2010 indictment against James Sadler and other operators of Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly alleged that in some cases customers traveled more than 200 miles round trip to be treated at the clinic.
Court filings say Sadler plans to change his not guilty plea at a hearing in federal court in Cincinnati Wednesday, with court records referring to a plea agreement that has not yet been made public.
Clinic employees were allegedly ordered to meet strict weekly quotas for filling painkiller prescriptions.
Sadler's attorney did not immediately return phone and email messages.
The government wanted the bonds of Nancy and Lester Sadler of West Portsmouth revoked. It says the couple lied about their income while receiving court-appointed attorneys and frequently visited out-of-state casinos, spending thousands.
U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Beckwith rejected the
government's request in a one-page order filed Tuesday.
Beckwith required the couple to file a new financial affidavit
and to update the courts on their finances monthly. Last month,
Beckwith banned them from going to casinos.
A 2010 indictment alleges the couple illegally distributed
painkillers at a clinic in Waverly.
The couple, Nancy and Lester Sadler of West Portsmouth, are free on their own recognizance but face the possibility of going to jail ahead of their trial involving an alleged pill mill in Waverly.
The government wants the bonds revoked. Authorities say the couple lied about their income while receiving court-appointed attorneys and frequently visited out-of-state casinos, spending thousands.
The couple's attorneys said in a filing Friday the Sadlers followed all conditions laid out by the government and that their bond didn't require them to disclose a change in their finances.
A federal judge holds a hearing later this month on the government's request.
The government also alleges in a filing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Columbus that a patient recently died after obtaining pills at the Columbus clinic operated by Nancy and Lester Sadler of West Portsmouth.
The filing says the Sadlers violated rules restricting their
travel by frequently visiting casinos and spending thousands of
dollars from clinic accounts.
The government says the Sadlers shouldn't be represented by
government-paid defense attorneys because they didn't fully
disclose their income.
Lester Sadler's attorney said he had not seen the motion, while
a message was left with Nancy Sadler's attorney.
The family owned and operated Ohio Medical and Pain Management, LLC, which is located in Waverly, Ohio.
The 29-count indictment also alleges that one or more of the defendants committed fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, and operated a continuing criminal enterprise.
A task force arrested five of the defendants at their residences before dawn on Tuesday. All of the arrests occurred without incident.
However, a sixth person, Lisa Clevenger, is still at large.
Charged in the indictment are:
The indictment alleges that the clinic was owned and operated by Nancy and Lester Sadler and Lisa Clevenger. The clinic operated as a “pill mill” by selling prescriptions for controlled substances (usually oxycodone), without a legitimate medical need for the prescriptions.
Many of the prescriptions were openly sold and diverted. Blank prescriptions forms were sold so the buyer could use or resell the prescriptions.
Additionally, the defendants allegedly created fake medical records and prescriptions for individuals who were not actual customers of the clinic in order to divert additional prescriptions.
The defendants also allegedly used Banks’ DEA registration number and fake names to order large quantities of controlled substances, primarily hydrocodone.
The indictment alleges that most of the ordered pills were then diverted by the defendants to their own use, the use of employees of the clinic, or for resale to drug dealers.
The clinic was usually open three or four days per week. Often between 30 and 40 but sometimes up to 80 customers would visit the clinic in a single day. New customers were normally charged $180 for the initial visit. Returning customers were charged $125 to $150 per visit.
The indictment alleges that there was no genuine examination by the physician. Instead, the clinic staff would often prepare the medical charts and prescription forms in advance, sit the customer down with the physician, and then the physician would sign the prescription at her desk.
The indictment charges Nancy Sadler, Lester Sadler, and Brenda Banks with one count of operating a continuing criminal enterprise. A continuing criminal enterprise conviction carries a minimum penalty of imprisonment of 20 years and up to life imprisonment.
The indictment also charges Nancy Sadler, Lester Sadler, Lisa Clevenger and Brenda Banks with one count of operating a property for the illegal distribution of controlled substances, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The indictment further charges Nancy Sadler, Lester Sadler, James Sadler and Brenda Banks with 24 counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances, each punishable by imprisonment of 10 or 20 years, depending upon the controlled substance involved. Nancy Sadler also is charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering for the allegedly illegal purchase and sale of 40,200 units of hydrocodone in order to purchase a convertible. Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years' imprisonment.
The indictment also seeks forfeiture of all property derived from the crimes or used to facilitate the crimes, including at least two pieces of real estate.
“The charges in this indictment are the direct result of an ongoing investigation by federal, state, and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies into the problem of prescription drug diversion,” Stewart said. “Prescription drug diversion and the related crimes that accompany it are emerging as an increasing threat to the region’s safety.”
“This indictment underscores DEA’s commitment to bring to justice those who would betray their promise to provide legitimate medical care to the community,” Corso said. “The indictment alleges that the defendants in this case benefited financially on the backs of other’s misery. When DEA uncovers evidence of this type of illegal diversion of legitimate pharmaceuticals by health care professionals, we will treat them in the same manner as any other street dealer peddling cocaine or heroin.”