UPDATE | Medical doctor pleads guilty for role in alleged pill mill
A medical doctor from North Carolina pleaded guilty Monday to a drug crime involving a pain clinic in Charleston, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said.
Dr. Roswell Tempest Lowry, 85, pleaded guilty to interstate travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise.
Investigators say Lowry was recruited to work at the Charleston pain clinic and would travel to the state when he worked.
Despite a number of concerns Lowry had, including patients not being properly evaluated, sloppy medical records and patients only paying in cash, he admitted that he continued to prescribe narcotics.
Federal prosecutors say Lowry would get a bonus on top of his hourly wage -- based on the number of paying customers at the clinic.
He faces five years in prison when he is sentenced May 4.
A former Parkersburg doctor could face up to five years in prison after pleading guilty in connection with an alleged pill mill operation.
Paul W. Burke, 68, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances not for legitimate medical purposes in the usual course of professional medical practice and beyond the bounds of medical practice.
Burke worked at the HOPE Clinic in Charleston and was named in a 98-count indictment against the owners, managers, and physicians associated with the clinic.
The Charleston HOPE Clinic was a chronic pain clinic. U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart's office says Burke worked there between April 2014 and September 2014.
Investigators say Burke admitted that the owner of the clinic recruited him to work there, despite the fact that Burke was an emergency room doctor and had little experience in dealing with chronic pain patients.
"Burke admitted that when he started working at the HOPE Clinic, it became apparent that some of the customers were not getting properly evaluated prior to the doctors writing them prescriptions for opioids, that the customers’ files were poorly kept and had little relevant medical information in them," states a press release from Stuart's office. "Burke admitted that many of the patients came to the HOPE Clinic from out of state, and most customers paid in cash. He also admitted that he often received a bonus on top of his hourly pay that was clearly based on the number of paying customers at the Clinic. Despite all of these red flags, Burke admitted that he continued to work at the HOPE Clinic and continued to write customers prescriptions for Schedule II narcotics."
A sentencing date was set for Jan. 30, 2020.
“As I’ve said many times, medical professionals who prey on individuals struggling with substance use disorder to line their own pockets will be held accountable,” said Stuart. “A drug dealer in a lab coat is still just a drug dealer. We will work with our law enforcement partners to remove them from our communities to protect West Virginia families.”
A federal grand jury returned a 98-count superseding indictment against the owners, managers and physicians associated with HOPE Clinic.
We told you on February 20 when 10 doctors and two others associated with the clinic were indicted on 69 counts related to a pill mill operation.
The superseding indictment announced Tuesday added 29 counts of "distributing and dispensing controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and not for medically legitimate purposes to six different customers on various occasions from 2013 through 2015 by Sanjay Mehta, D.O., Michael T. Moran, M.D., Mark Clarkson, D.O., Vernon Stanley, M.D., Brian Gullett, D.O., William Earley, D.O., Paul W. Burke, Jr., D.O., and Rowsell Tempest Lowry, M.D. Among the 29 counts added, two counts charge Joshua Radcliffe, the son of PPPFD owner, Mark T. Radcliffe, with aiding, abetting, counseling, commanding and procuring, Sanjay Mehta, D.O., with the distribution of controlled substances on two separate occasions to two separate customers," a news release said.
"The additional 29 charges were necessary as a result of the facts underlying this terrible case," said U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart. "A physician's first oath is to 'do no harm,' but sadly when physicians do not uphold this oath, a lot of irrevocable harm is done."
In addition the new document charges all defendants with a conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and not for medically legitimate purposes. It also charges Blume and Mark Radcliffe with maintaining drug-involved locations in Beckley, Beaver and Charleston.
According to the news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office:
"If convicted on all charges as alleged in the indictment, Dr. Blume and Mark Radcliffe face up to 100 years; Joshua Radcliffe faces up to 60 years; Teresa Emerson faces up to 20 years; Michael Moran faces up to 80 years; Sanjay Mehta faces a forty year mandatory minimum sentence up to life imprisonment; Vernon Stanley faces up to 300 years; Brian Gullett faces up to 380 years; Mark Clarkson faces up to 100 years; William Earley faces up to 300 years; Paul Burke faces up to 200 years; and Roswell Tempest Lowry faces up to 140 years."
A dozen owners, managers and physicians have been indicted on a list of charges stemming issues with a pain clinic that operated in four locations across West Virginia and Virginia.
United States Attorney Michael B. Stuart held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to make the announcement with several other agencies.
The indictment charges the owners, managers and physicians associated with HOPE Clinic, which operated as a pain management clinic in Beckley, Beaver and Charleston, West Virginia, as well as Wytheville, Virginia.
Stuart says 10 doctors and two others were indicted on 69 counts in relation to a pill mill that was being operated. Those indicted include: James H. Blume, Jr., D.O., Mark T. Radcliffe, Joshua Radcliffe, Michael T. Moran, M.D., Sanjay Mehta, D.O., Brian Gullett, D.O., Vernon Stanley, M.D., Mark Clarkson, D.O., William Easley, D.O., Paul Burke, M.D., Roswell Tempest Lowry, M.D., and Teresa Emerson, LNP.
In addition to the conspiracy charge, the indictment charges defendants Blume and Mark Radcliffe with maintaining drug-involved premises in Beckley, Beaver and Charleston. It also includes 62 counts charging several physicians with distribution of controlled substances not for legitimate medical purposes and outside the usual course of professional practice.
Stuart says the indictment also includes two charges against Sanjay Mehta, a former physicians at the Beckley and Beaver HOPE Clinic locations, with two counts of distribution of controlled substances causing death.
The indictments state that the clinic was conspiring to distribute oxycodone and other Schedule II controlled substances from November 2010 to June 2015.
"Home-grown drug dealers hidden behind the veil of a doctor's lab coat, a medical degree and a prescription pad are every bit as bad as the heroin dealers from Detroit who bring their poisons to West Virginia. Today's 69-count indictment is the continuation of our efforts to hold accountable those who prey on the good citizens of West Virginia," said U.S. Attorney Stuart.
Unveiled in the indictment Tuesday, it alleges that Blume and Mark Radcliffe operated the clinic together and as cash-based business that prescribed obycodone and other Schedule II controlled substances to customers. They also allegedly refused to accept insurance and charged in-state customers at least $275 for an initial appointment.
WSAZ previously reported that federal authorities raided the clinic back in March 2015. Federal and state law enforcement officers removed boxes of files from the clinic and turned patients away. They were able to reopen four days later.
A month later, the clinic was one of two ordered to be closed. The West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification said the clinic didn't meet requirements to be licensed.