On Tuesday, federal prosecutors announced the indictment and arrest of four Chattanooga, Tennessee owners and employees of pain management clinics that the government is calling “pill mills.” According to the government, the two men and two woman conspired to distribute various controlled substances and ran “drug-involved premises.” Two are charged with specific acts of distributing controlled substances illegally. The government is seeking large financial penalties as well as forfeiture of property, and each defendant faces potentially long prison terms if convicted.
The individuals charged in the indictment are Faith Blake, Barbara Lang, Charles Reed Larmore, and Dr. Jerome Sherard, all of whom owned or operated at least eight clinics in Chattanooga. The government claims that, through the pain centers, and over several years, the four illegally distributed Dilaudid, Oxycodone, Methadone, Morphine, Vicoden, Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and other prescription medications without proper medical purposes.
Each of the various charges in the indictment carries potential prison terms of 5 to 20 years and up to $1 million in criminal fines. On top of that, the government has asked the court for forfeitures in the amount of $7.2 million, on top of the $1 million already seized.
The point of these arrests and prosecutions is to send a message, but that doesn’t mean that the people who are charged in these cases are necessarily guilty of breaking federal laws.
We continue to be surprised at the number of guilty pleas in these cases. These charges can be successfully defended. Our federal defense attorneys recently won a criminal jury trial for a doctor accused of unlawfully prescribing drugs, and we are involved in several “pill mill” cases in Georgia that we intend to fight. The outcome of these cases often depends on whether a licensed physician was involved, the person’s involvement in the actual prescribing of medication, and whether the person has a significant financial interest in the business.