CPD had role in ‘pill mill’ verdicts

A drug conspiracy involving the distribution of more than 11 million tablets of oxycodone, oxymorphone, and morphine that generated more $21 million of clinic revenue, with a corresponding street value of $360 million, saw its first convictions last week in a U.S. District Court.

And a Clinton police officer was involved in helping bring down the conspiracy.

After five days of deliberation, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict Feb. 14 against Sylvia Hofstetter, 55, of Miami, Florida; and Courtney Newman, 44; Cynthia Clemons, 47; and Holli Womack, also known as “Holli Carmichael,” 46, all of Knoxville.

The jury returned guilty verdicts against Hofstetter for a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy, a drug conspiracy, money laundering, and maintaining drug-involved premises, and guilty verdicts against Newman, Clemons, and Womack for maintaining drug-involved premises.

The verdicts follow a three-month trial presided over by Judge Thomas A. Varlan in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville.

The government presented testimony from 55 witnesses throughout the trial, including former patients, employees, medical providers, and expert medical witnesses.

Clinton Police Department Chief Vaughn Becker said Monday that a Clinton police officer was assigned to the task force and that he played a role in bringing the operation to an end.

The officer, who was not identified, has been assigned to another task force, Becker said.

The conspiracy involved four separate clinics in Tennessee, which, the evidence showed, were essentially pill mills.

Before opening these pill mills in Tennessee, according to testimony, Hofstetter worked at another pill mill in Hollywood, Florida, which was raided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in December, 2010.

Testimony revealed that law enforcement’s crackdown on hundreds of pill mills in South Florida during that period precipitated the move to East Tennessee, where a large percentage of those clinics’ opioid-addicted customers lived.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowksi of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and U. S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee, announced the verdicts last Friday.

This superseding indictment resulted from an investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the Organized Crime and Gang Section, U.S. Department of Justice, and the FBI High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), composed of investigators assigned to the task force by the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Police Department, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Roane County Sheriff’s Office, Harriman Police Department, and Clinton Police Department.

Other agencies provided invaluable assistance, including the FBI’s Miami Field Office, Hollywood (Florida) Police Department, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Tennessee Department of Health, and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Knoxville Diversion Group.

Eastern District of Tennessee Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Stone, along with Deputy Chief Kelly Pearson and trial attorney Damare Theriot of the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, represented the United States during the trial.