A federal indictment unsealed Tuesday revealed allegations of detailed "pill mill" operations in the Chattanooga area against four owner/operators of local pain management clinics over at least the past four years.
The indictment comes two months after local doctor Ihsaan al-Amin was arraigned before a federal magistrate on 105 similar charges of health care fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and using a firearm in the operation of a criminal enterprise.
Al-Amin, who has pleaded not guilty, has an evidentiary hearing scheduled for Oct. 9 before Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier.
On Sept. 7, agents arrested Faith Blake, 40, of Houston, Texas; Barbara Lang, 58, of Rossville; Chuck Larmore, 64, of Chattanooga; and Dr. Jerome Arnold Sherard, 58, of Hixson, who all face charges in the 66-count federal indictment, which alleges they "illegally distribute and dispense" painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine, methadone and others.
"Prescription drug abuse is a widespread problem in our district and country," said U.S. Attorney William Killian in a news release.
According to court documents, Blake and Lang owned and operated Superior One Medical Clinic in Chattanooga from December 2010 until July 2011. Blake also operated Elite Care Pain Clinic in Chattanooga from August to November 2011.
Lang and Larmore operated Primary Care and Pain Clinic in Chattanooga from August 2011 until present while Sherard operated multiple clinics under his name and Skyview Medical Center of Chattanooga from at least September 2009 until June 2012.
Investigators arrested Blake in Houston, and he entered a not guilty plea. Lang, Larmore and Sherard were arrested and made a Sept. 7 court appearance in Chattanooga. All pleaded not guilty.
Federal prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of both cash and bank accounts in the amounts of $506,000 from Lang, $378,000 from Larmore and $192,000 from Sherard.
They also are asking the judge to issue a judgment of $7.2 million against all four defendants in fines and penalties for the alleged criminal violations, according to court records.
Each of those charged face up to 20 years and fines up to $1 million each for the charges they face, if convicted, according to the U.S. attorney's office news release.
Twenty-three other defendants, who investigators say used the clinics to procure drugs, were charged with drug trafficking and money laundering offenses in Roane County, Tenn.
Eighteen of the 23 have pleaded guilty or signed plea agreements.
Contact staff writer Todd South at email@example.com or 423-757-6347.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...