PA Convicted of Distributing More Than 1.2 Million Opioid Pills

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A federal sting operation led to the recent conviction of a Texas physician assistant on charges of illegally prescribing a total of $3 million in drugs to patients at two “pill mill” clinics in Houston and helping others do the same.

The May 20 conviction of Charles Thompson, 76, of Houston, was based on charges of distributing more than 1.2 million opioid pills to thousands of individuals posing as patients at two pain management clinics, according to the US Department of Justice.

Thompson’s conviction was the latest legal action in a string of cases involving the operation, including a doctor convicted in March who worked with Thompson at the West Parker Medical Clinic. Internist James Pierre, MD, 52, faces charges of unlawfully prescribing more than $1 million worth of opioid hydrocodone, according to federal officials.

Thompson also worked at Priority Wellness Clinic. Six people have pled guilty in connection with their conduct at West Parker or Priority Wellness, the justice department reported.

From June 2015 through July 2016, while Thompson was at West Parker, he helped Pierre unlawfully prescribe hydrocodone and the muscle relaxant carisoprodol, a combination of controlled substances for pain management known as the “Las Vegas Cocktail” to people in the sting operations pretending to be patients, authorities stated.

Thompson also distributed unlawful prescriptions for carisoprodol. So-called “runners” brought numerous people to pose as patients at West Parker and paid the clinic about $220 to $500 in cash for each visit that resulted in prescriptions for dangerous drugs. Throughout the scheme, West Parker pocketed about $1.75 million from prescriptions; Thompson was paid more than $208,000.

According to authorities, Thompson also helped others illegally prescribe controlled substances, including hydrocodone and oxycodone, from May to July 2017 at Priority Wellness, which opened in December 2016 after West Parker closed.

Priority Wellness reportedly operated as a pill mill similar to West Parker’s. Runners brought people posing as patients to Priority Wellness and paid the clinic between $300 and $600. The cost depended on whether the purported patient received a prescription for hydrocodone or oxycodone, almost always prescribed in combination with carisoprodol, authorities said. Throughout the scheme, Priority Wellness made about $1.1 million, and Thompson made between $700 and $900 a day.

He was convicted of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances and seven counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances in connection with his conduct at West Parker. For his conduct at Priority Wellness, he was convicted of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances and one count of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances.

He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of conviction with sentencing scheduled for October 3.

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