A federal jury came back with guilty verdict Thursday against four defendants for their roles in a pill mill operation in Lenoir City and Knoxville.
The three-month trial involved Sylvia Hofstetter, 55, of Hollywood, Fla., Courtney Newman, 44, Cynthia Clemons, 47, and Holli Womack, 46, all of Knoxville.
A release from U.S. Attorney Douglas Overbey’s Office said jurors took five days to deliberate before returning a guilty verdict for Hofstetter for a “racketeer influenced and corrupt organization conspiracy,” a drug conspiracy, maintaining drug-involved premises and money laundering. The other three women were found guilty of maintaining drug involved premises as nurse practitioners.
Over the course of the trial, the U.S. presented testimony from 55 witnesses, including former patients, medical providers, employees and expert medical witnesses, according to a release from Overbey’s office.
“This office appreciates the extremely hard work by the jury to reach this verdict,” Overbey said. “The verdict should demonstrate the dire consequences to individuals who participate in greedy schemes to make money and cause so many to suffer from the opioid crisis. To the men and women on the investigative and prosecution teams, we salute the sacrifices you made and the skills you demonstrated to achieve justice in this long and complex trial.”
Hofstetter, who operated the clinics, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Remaining defendants face up to 20 years and fines up to $500,000. Sentencing hearings will be in July for Newman, August for Clemons and Womack and September for Hofstetter.
The drug conspiracy involved distributing more than 11 million tablets of oxycodone, oxymorphone and morphine that generated more than $21 million in clinic revenue. Corresponding street value was estimated at $360 million.
The conspiracy involved four clinics. Before opening in Tennessee, Hofstetter worked at a Florida-based pill mill in Hollywood, Fla., which was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration in December 2010.
“Testimony revealed that law enforcement’s crackdown on hundreds of pill mills in South Florida during that time period precipitated the move to East Tennessee, where a large percentage of those clinics’ opioid-addicted customers lived,” the release said.
Comprehensive Healthcare Systems, a clinic in Lenoir City, was raided in 2015, which led to Hofstetter’s arrest.
“The devastation inflicted on families due to the illicit drug trade is immeasurable,” Joe Carrico, FBI special agent in charge, said in a release. “The reprehensible actions of those responsible will not be tolerated. As evidenced by these convictions, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will never stop working to put those people who run pill mills behind bars.”
The indictment resulted from an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Tennessee, the Organized Crime and Gang Section, U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which is comprised of investigators from area law enforcement, including the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office.
LCSO Chief Deputy Jimmy Davis declined comment, noting the case had the possibility of appeal.
Knoxville attorney Charles Burks, who represents Hofstetter, could not be reached for comment by News-Herald presstime.