Virginia doctor convicted of 861 federal charges for running pill mill

Published: Apr. 29, 2019 at 1:23 PM EDT
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UPDATE (May 9):

A Virginia doctor has been convicted of a whopping 861 federal drug charges at the end of a 9-day trial in the U.S. District Court in Abingdon.

After seven hours of deliberation, jurors found 36-year-old Joel Smithers guilty of one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of illegally distributing controlled substances, one count of possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances, and 859 counts of illegally prescribing Schedule II controlled substances.

In addition, the jury found that oxycodone and oxymorphone Smithers prescribed was directly responsible for a West Virginia woman's death.

According to evidence presented at Smithers' trial, he opened an office in Martinsville in August of 2015 and prescribed controlled substances to every single patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances distributed in the area.

The drugs included oxymorphone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl.

Prosecutors said many of Smithers' patients traveled hundreds of miles, one-way, to get the drugs from his Virginia office.

Smithers did not accept insurance and took in over $700,000 in cash and credit payments before a search warrant was carried out at his office on March 7, 2017.

Judge James P. Jones ordered the doctor into custody until his sentencing, will come on August 16.

He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in jail and up to a life term. He could also be fined up to $200 million.

“This defendant not only violated his Hippocratic Oath to his patients, but he perpetuated, on a massive scale, the vicious cycle of addiction, despair, and destruction,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated. “We have no higher priority than investigating drug-dealing physicians and other corrupt health-care practitioners and putting them in federal prison.”

The case was investigated by the Roanoke offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad and the Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, with help from the police departments of Bristol, Martinsville, Buena Vista, Roanoke, and Roanoke County; the Sheriff’s Offices of Henry County and Pittsylvania County, as well as Virginia State Police.


Apr. 29

A Virginia doctor accused of running an illegal pill mill is headed to trial.

Joel Smithers, who lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, is charged with illegally prescribing thousands of doses of potent and addictive painkillers from his medical practice in Martinsville, Virginia.

A federal judge last week refused to appoint a new defense attorney for Smithers or to postpone the trial, which starts Monday in Abingdon.

The judge noted that Smithers repeatedly has admitted that he has not traveled to Virginia to review materials disclosed by prosecutors or to meet with his attorney.

Smithers is charged in an 862-count indictment with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, maintaining a place for unlawfully distributing controlled substances, and dispensing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose.

Smithers has maintained his innocence.