UPDATE 8/20/12 @ 5:45 p.m.
PAINTSVILLE, Ky (WSAZ) -- It's now roundup time after 22 federal criminal pain clinic indictments were unsealed late last week.
WSAZ.com’s Randy Yohe was in on many of the initial clinic raids. Police told him the indictments will make a dent in the problem.
The 22 felony indictments include numerous pain clinic doctors and owners. With those, as well as several suspected pill mills now shut down, it appears the customers in Pike, Floyd and Johnson counties are going elsewhere.
And local deputies say when the neighborhood pill mill goes, there's a big dent in local neighborhood crime.
The Care More pain management center just outside downtown Paintsville now sits desolate and for lease. It's a far cry from the mass parking lot arrests made there periodically during the past two years.
We saw arrests for public intoxication, DUIand outstanding warrants.
Now, clinic co-owners Tammy Cantrell and Shelby Lackey face multiple felony drug charges.
The U.S. attorney says they conspired with a doctor to illegally distribute hydrocodone, making nearly $2 million in profits. The county sheriff's department says this suspected pill mill shutdown, combined with other shutdowns in the area, have cut community crimes just by default.
“If you do a reverse search, you'll find that your everyday crimes -- public intoxication, DUI, thefts, are nearly all attributed to the abuse of prescription drugs," Johnson County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Hazlette said.
Another empty building in Floyd County’s Auxier community, just over the Johnson County line, formerly housed the Auto Accident and Health Care Center. That's where the U.S. attorney says now indicted co-owners Ray Stapleton and his wife Tina Marie schemed to unlawfully dispense a variety of powerful painkillers
We're told they made $1.5 million in profits and were plaguing their Johnson County neighbors
Hazlette says the local, state and federal drug enforcement cooperation is as strong as it's ever been, and that's what helping make a dent.
We talked to the embarrassed owner of the building in Auxier who was overjoyed when he began leasing to a doctor, then shocked and overwhelmed when the clinic was implicated on illegal activity. He says he's pain pill educated now and suggests others do so -- and quickly.
That's because they say when one leaves, another is waiting to take over the space.
Chapmanville Police say the body of James Ronald Huffman was discovered the same day two indictments against him were unsealed.
Investigators say Huffman's body was found lying in a bed at the Best Western Motel in Chapmanville last Thursday.
Police say there's no sign of foul play.
Huffman was one of 22 people indicted last week, including five pain clinic owners and six doctors, with offenses related to prescription drugs, money laundering and health care fraud.
Between Friday and late Thursday afternoon, five indictments have been unsealed charging 22 defendants, including five pain clinic owners and six doctors, with offenses related to prescription drugs, money laundering and health care fraud.
According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, nine of the indictments alleges that Houston, Texas doctor Linda J. Roos, 46, conspired to unlawfully distribute pills to Pike County residents.
Dr. Roos allegedly prescribed more than 125,000 Oxycodone pills from September 2006 until July 2011. She allegedly faxed many of her prescriptions to a pharmacy in Pikeville so the patients who visited her could pick up the pills on their way home from Texas. To limit traveling, Roos often allowed patients to obtain a prescription by faxing her a form, according to the release.
Dennis and Helen Varney, patients of Dr. Roos, were charged with conspiracy to distribute prescription drugs. Authorities found hundreds of Oxycodone pills while searching the Varney’s residence. Dennis Varney, 62, is charged with multiple counts of distributing Oxycodone pills, according to the release.
In a second indictment, a Pikeville pharmacy manager, Beverly Lockhart, 58, allegedly conspired with Pikeville doctor Thad Manning, 46, to illegally sell prescription drug samples.
According to the release, in the same indictment, Lockhart is charged with health care fraud conspiracy. She allegedly defrauded Medicare by submitting reimbursement claims for medications the pharmacy never provided to the customers.
Another indictment alleges that Tammy Cantrell, 39, and Shelby Lackey, 50, co-owners of Caremore pain clinic in Johnson County, conspired with a doctor to distribute Hydrocodone to Johnson County residents. They allegedly made nearly $2 million in drug proceeds, according to the release.
A fourth indictment alleges that the co-owners of Auto Accident and Health Care in Auxier, Ky., Ray Douglas Stapleton, 34, and his wife Tina Marie Stapleton, 33, conspired with two doctors, according to the release. They schemed to unlawfully dispense Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Xanax to Johnson County residents. The scheme made approximately $1.5 million from July 2010 through June 2012.
According to yet another indictment, Jody Robinson, 37, a pain clinic owner in Florida, conspired with a doctor to launder money and illegally dispense prescription drugs to patients from Boyd, Greenup, and Lawrence Counties. The clinic allegedly made approximately $2 million in just over a year.
Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Perrye Turner, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Rodney Brewer, Kentucky State Police Commissioner, Antoinette V. Henry, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, Jack Conway, Kentucky Attorney General, and Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration and Joe Williams, Director of Appalachia HIDTA jointly announced the indictments.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, KSP, Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, FDA, Kentucky Board of Pharmacy, DEA, and Kentucky Office of Inspector General, Drug Enforcement Branch. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roger West and Lee Gentry presented the indictments to the grand jury.
The healthcare fraud, prescription drug, and money laundering conspiracies carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison. However, the court must consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the applicable federal statutes before imposing any sentence following a conviction.
The indictment of a person by a grand jury is an accusation only, and that person is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
Investigators from the Kentucky Attorney General's office, DEA, and local law enforcement swooped in with search warrants, Wednesday morning.
"I called the detention center and the actually booked in 19 people" Deputy Scott Hazlette with the Johnson County Sheriff's Department said.
That number is smaller than early reported, but Hazlette said it still speaks to the grip of addiction.
"The majority of the people arrested, were brought in on DUI, public intoxication and charges stemming from other warrants." Hazlette said.
The raid was part of an ongoing investigation by the KY Attorney General's Office.
All of those arrested were busted outside in the clinic's parking lot.
Agents seized records, but no one was arrested inside the Care More Pain Management Clinic or charged with any wrong doing.
"What we were told, the plan is to go directly to the grand jury, in lieu of arrest, and let a federal grand jury make a decision on who's indicted for what," Sheriff Dwayne Price said.
Calls to the Care More Pain Management Clinic were met with the person answering on the other end of the line, repeatedly hanging up.
Federal, state and local law enforcement executed a search warrant at Care More Pain Management, on Tays Branch, Wednesday morning.
Back on February 16, 2011 agents raided the same clinic and Dr. Richard Albert’s Pain Management Center.
Investigators from the Attorney General’s office, DEA, Johnson County Sheriff’s department, Kentucky State Police, Paintsville Police, Prestonsburg Police and Floyd County Sheriff’s department, searched the clinic as part of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and the DEA into doctors who over prescribe pain medications, according to a press release.
During Wednesday’s search, 29 people were arrested on charges of public intoxication, DUI and for outstanding warrants. The arrests were made by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and Paintsville Police.
Back in July, a federal grand jury indicted Dr. Albert on one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs without a legitimate medical purpose. Federal prosecutors estimated that Dr. Albert was prescribing more than 100,000 pills a month and averaged 55 patients a day.
In December, Dr. Albert pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute and dispense controlled substances.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 18.
Johnson County Sheriff Dwayne Price tells WSAZ.com that search warrants were served at Care More Pain Management on Tays Branch Road Wednesday morning.
The DEA, Kentucky Attorney General's Office, Johnson County Sheriff's Department and Paintsville Police Department took part in the raid.
Sheriff Price tells WSAZ.com that nine people were arrested in the parking lot during the raid. One arrest was for DUI and the eight other arrests were for outstanding warrants.
The clinic has been a concern for people in the area that have been calling in complaints for months, according to Sheriff Price.
The investigation of the clinic started back in February.
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