9 Middle Tennessee medical workers federally charged in major opioid investigation

Opioid-Crisis

A major regional drug round-up involving medical professionals resulted in dozens of federal indictments across multiple states, including nine from Middle Tennessee,  officials said Wednesday. 

The Middle Tennessee medical workers, including four doctors, four nurse practitioners and a pharmacist, are accused of illegally prescribing and dispensing opioids along with other dangerous drugs as well as healthcare fraud. 

“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.”

Some of the alleged crimes date back to 2012. 

In all, 60 people were charged across six states, including Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Fifty-four of those charged work in various medical professions. 

Those charged in Tennessee all worked in some form of medicine and hail from cities like Nashville, Murfreesboro, Hendersonville, Cookeville and others. 

“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.”

According to officials, nine people, who live or once lived in Tennessee, are facing federal charges:

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.”

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.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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