April 17, 2019 – Federal indictments were unsealed today charging nine Middle Tennessee medical professionals, including four doctors, four nurse practitioners and a pharmacist, with various charges alleging their participation in illegally prescribing and dispensing opioids and other dangerous narcotics and health care fraud schemes, announced U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Earlier this morning, federal agents across the region began arresting those named in the indictments.
U.S. Attorney Cochran joined Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and nine other U.S. Attorneys in Cincinnati this morning to announce the results of the investigations conducted by the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force (ARPO), a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the Health Care Fraud Unit in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for ten federal districts in six states, as well as law enforcement partners at the Health & Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FBI.
“The indictments announced today are the culmination of many months of meticulous investigation and another example of our commitment to hold those accountable who perpetuate the opioid crisis in our nation,” said U.S. Attorney Don Cochran. “I commend our law enforcement partners and prosecutors for their extraordinary efforts in bringing these cases. Our work is not done and we will continue our enforcement efforts without regard for who a person is or what position they may hold.”
The enforcement actions announced today include charges against 60 defendants in six states, including Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, and included 54 medical professionals. Those charged in the Middle District of Tennessee include:
Dr. Darrell R. Rinehart, 63, of Indianapolis, Indiana, formerly of Columbia, Tennessee, was indicted on 19 counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between December 4, 2014 and January 21, 2016. According to the indictment, four patients died who were actively being seen by Dr. Rinehart. The indictment also alleges that on November 27, 2018, the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended Rinehart’s medical license until May 31, 2019, at which time his license will expire and he will be prohibited from renewing it or applying for a new license.
Dr. Bowdoin G. Smith, 64, of Carthage, Tennessee, was indicted on two counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, in January and February 2019. The indictment alleges that in October 2012, Smith entered a consent order with the State of Tennessee Department of Health, Board of Osteopathic Examination based on stipulated facts that Smith, among other things, prescribed controlled substances “not in the course of professional practice, or not in good faith to relieve pain and suffering, or not to cure an ailment, physical infirmity or disease,” and Smith’s treatment “routinely included prescribing narcotics and other medications and controlled substances in amounts and/or for durations not medically necessary, advisable, or justified for a diagnosed condition.” Smith’s medical license was placed on probation for a period of not less than three years, beginning on October 11, 2012. According to the indictment, On November 4, 2015, the Board lifted the probation and Smith again began illegally prescribing highly addictive opioids, continuing through February 2019.
Dr. Lawrence J. Valdez, 50, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, was indicted on 18 counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between June 2016 and March 2017.
Dr. Timothy Abbott, 62, of Nashville, a Podiatrist, was indicted on seven counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between January 2015 and January 2019.
Heather Marks, 36, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a Nurse Practitioner, was indicted on four counts of prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between December 2016 and February 2018.
Brian Richey, 37, of Cookeville, Tennessee, Daniel Seeley, 58, of Batesville, Mississippi, and Jonathan White, 49, of Tullahoma, Tennessee, all Nurse Practitioners, were indicted on three counts of healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. According to the indictment, Richey, Seeley and White were employed by MedManagement Inc., which managed Pain MD located in Franklin, Tennessee. Pain MD operated pain and wellness clinics throughout Middle Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Between 2010 and continuing through 2015, the indictment alleges that Richey, Seeley and White provided services to patients, namely “Tendon Origin Injections,” which were neither medically necessary nor anatomically possible and provided medically unnecessary durable medical equipment and then submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE. These services were provided to further the company’s business model by increasing revenues and to personally enrich Pain MD providers and executives. The indictment further alleges that Richey, Seely and White trained other providers on methods to increase productivity, including methods on how to control the patient and allow them to treat patients with such medically unnecessary injections and threatening to dismiss them as patients and stop writing prescriptions for narcotic pain medication if they did not comply. According to the indictment, Richey, Seeley, White and others submitted more than $3.5 million in false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE.
Finally, John Polston, 58, of Tompkinsville, Kentucky, was indicted on 21 counts of dispensing Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances, outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, between April 27, 2017 and December 6, 2017. The indictment alleges that Polston was the Pharmacist-in-Charge of Oakley Pharmacy, Inc. d/b/a Dale Hollow Pharmacy in Celina, Tennessee. On March 6, 2017, Polston entered into an agreement with the DEA that required compliance with federal, state and local laws pertaining to the dispensation of controlled substances. The indictment alleges that until approximately February 2019, Polston repeatedly and consistently dispensed controlled substances, including highly addictive opioids, that were not for a legitimate medical purpose or in the usual course of professional practice.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration and our law enforcement partners remain committed to targeting unscrupulous medical practitioners who choose profits over patients,” said D. Christopher Evans, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Louisville Field Division. “We will never stop fighting for those who have been rendered helpless by America’s on-going opioid crisis.”
“Opioid fraud schemes have hit the Appalachian region particularly hard, resulting in staggering numbers of addiction, overdoses and deaths of individuals to include Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick J. Jackson of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “Working hand-in-hand with our law enforcement partners, our agents will continue to address this devastating epidemic by thoroughly investigating corrupt providers who contribute to the ongoing opioid crisis and threaten the health and well-being of patients, as alleged in these cases.”
“The efforts and cooperation among federal, state, and local partners make it possible to bring to justice those who put their greed over the health and wellbeing of their patients,” said Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation M. A. Myers. “The FBI will continue to combine our resources and share our expertise with our law enforcement partners to identify and target those who would hope to commit similar crimes.”
“The health and well-being of Tennesseans is of the utmost of importance to the TBI and our law enforcement partners,” said Director David Rausch. “It’s through efforts like this that we are able to further work toward attacking the opioid crisis and the effects it has on our residents.”
Cases brought under section 841 of Title 21 of the United States Code for the illegal prescribing or dispensing of Schedule II drugs carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1million fine on each count; for Schedule IV drugs – up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Cases brought under section 1347 of Title 21 of the United States Code for health care fraud carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
For any patients impacted by the law enforcement operations, DOJ, DEA, HHS-OIG, HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, CDC’s Opioid Rapid Response Team and all 5 State Departments of Health are deploying federal and state-level strategies to address patient harm and ensure continuity of care. Additional information regarding available treatment programs in Tennessee and where patients can turn for assistance is available by calling 1-855-CRISIS-1.
The cases announced today were brought as part of the ARPO Strike Force, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for ten federal districts in six states, as well as law enforcement partners at the HHS-OIG, the DEA and the FBI. The southern hub of the ARPO Strike Force operates out of Nashville. In addition, the operation includes the participation of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and multiple State Medicaid Fraud Control Units. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Bogni and Sara Beth Myers of the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorneys from the Fraud Section of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the cases.
Additional documents related to this announcement are available here:
An indictment is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.