Knoxville, Tenn. – A federal jury returned a guilty verdict against four defendants for their roles in running “pill mills,” announced 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.
After five days of deliberation, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict against Sylvia Hofstetter, 55, of Miami, Florida, and Courtney Newman, 44, Cynthia Clemons, 47, and Holli Womack, a.k.a. “Holli Carmichael,” 46, all of Knoxville, Tenn. 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 verdict follows a three-month trial presided over by United States District Judge Thomas A. Varlan in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville. The United States presented testimony from 55 witnesses throughout the trial, including former patients, employees, medical providers, and expert medical witnesses.
Defendant Hofstetter faces a term of up to 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. The remaining defendants face up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $500,000. Sentencing hearings are tentatively set for Newman in July 2020, Clemons and Womack in August 2020, and Hofstetter in September 2020.
The drug conspiracy involved the distribution of over 11 million tablets of oxycodone, oxymorphone, and morphine that generated over $21 million of clinic revenue, with a corresponding street value of $360 million. The conspiracy involved four separate clinics in Tennessee, which, the evidence showed, were essentially pill mills. Before opening these pill mills in Tennessee, testimony established that Hofstetter worked at a Florida-based pill mill in Hollywood, Florida, which was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 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.
United States Attorney Overbey said, “This office appreciates the extremely hard work by the jury to reach this verdict. 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.”
“The devastation inflicted on families due to the illicit drug trade is immeasurable. 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,” said the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge, Joe Carrico.
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), comprised 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, the Hollywood, Florida, Police Department, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the 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, with the U.S. Department of Justice, represented the United States.
This case was part of the Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the HIDTA programs. OCDETF is the primary weapon of the United States against the highest level drug trafficking organizations operating within the United States, importing drugs into the United States, or laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking. The HIDTA program enhances and coordinates drug control efforts among local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies. The program provides agencies with coordination, equipment, technology, and additional resources to combat drug trafficking and its harmful consequences in critical regions of the United States.