Johnson County couple plead guilty in federal pill mill case

bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 7, 2014 

A Johnson County couple charged with operating an unscrupulous pain clinic pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court.

Ray Douglas Stapleton and Tina Stapleton pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute drugs and to maintaining a business to illegally distribute drugs.

Charges remain in the case against two doctors, Stephen Arny and Emmanuel Acosta, who allegedly wrote hundreds of improper prescriptions at the clinic. The doctors have disputed the charges.

The case started when Ray Stapleton arrived drunk at a traffic checkpoint in Magoffin County in October 2012, according to court records. After arresting him, police found more than 6,000 pills and $1.3 million in his vehicle.

Police also found a note to a doctor from Stapleton saying federal authorities were expected at his clinic, and "we can't be overcrowded" like usual, according to court records.

The Stapletons operated a business called the Auto Accident and Healthcare Clinic at Auxier in Floyd County, according to court records.

Authorities have charged that it was a "pill mill," a cash-based business where doctors wrote prescriptions for drug abusers with little effort to provide real examinations or treatment.

A federal grand jury indicted the Stapletons and the two doctors on a charge of taking part in a drug conspiracy between July 2010 and June 2012.

Ray and Tina Stapleton forfeited $1.3 million as part of their plea. That's apparently one of the largest forfeitures ever in Eastern Kentucky involving an alleged pill mill.

They face up to 20 years in prison. They are to be sentenced in July.

Kentucky State Police and the FBI investigated the case, with assistance from the Magoffin County Sheriff's Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger West is the prosecutor.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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