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Former pain clinic workers charged

Two former employees of a chain of pain clinics have been charged with contributing to an avalanche of prescription pills into Eastern Kentucky.

The arrests continue an investigation of one of the first large drug rings organized to bring pills to Kentucky from out of state. Problems with interstate pill transport, particularly from South Florida to Eastern Kentucky, have since become severe, police say.

Stephen M. Lyon, 45, of Louisiana, and Tonia Snook, 33, of Mississippi, conspired to distribute methadone, according to a complaint filed this week in federal court in Pikeville.

Lyon was chief executive officer of Urgent Care Services, based in Slidell, La., and Snook worked for the company, according to a sworn statement by James R. Hunter, the investigator on the case.

The two recruited people from Eastern Kentucky to come to company offices in Slidell, Philadelphia and Cincinnati from 2004 to 2007, Hunter said.

The case relates to an earlier one involving dozens of people from the Floyd County area who traveled to other states to get prescriptions for methadone and other pain pills, which they then sold and abused in Eastern Kentucky, according to court documents.

Police say they believe people have left Kentucky for prescriptions in increasing numbers in recent years to avoid scrutiny by the state's prescription-monitoring system.

When police raided the Urgent Care Services office in Philadelphia in 2007, they found that more than 100 people had traveled there from the Floyd County area to get prescriptions.

That drug ring, headed by Timothy Wayne Hall of Floyd County, was the first in which police could track pills being sold in Eastern Kentucky to a doctor writing prescriptions in another state, state police Capt. Kevin Payne has said.

Before people involved in the drug ring started going north, however, they went to an Urgent Care Services office in Slidell to get prescriptions, according to the affidavit by Hunter, a state police detective assigned to an FBI task force.

Hunter said people from Floyd County started going to Slidell in mid-2004, routinely paying around $500 in cash to get prescriptions for 160 methadone wafers, 120 Percocet pills and 120 Xanax tablets after little or no examination by a doctor.

At some point, Snook, who worked at the Slidell office, told the people from Eastern Kentucky that the company was opening an office in Philadelphia, and they started going there, according to court records.

The company later opened an office in Cincinnati, and people from Eastern Kentucky started going there.

Doctors from Philadelphia and Cincinnati, a pharmacist from Cincinnati and a woman who worked at the Urgent Care Services office in Philadelphia have pleaded guilty to improperly giving prescriptions or drugs to people from the Floyd County area, and helped in the investigation, Hunter said.

The doctors told investigators they questioned the prescribing practices at Urgent Care Services, but felt pressure from company officials to keep generating income, according to Hunter's statement.

The Cincinnati doctor, Lloyd Stanley Naramore, said that when he asked another Urgent Care Services official, Michael Leman, about changing the prescriptions for the Kentucky residents, Leman threatened that if Naramore did not follow plan, Leman "would find someone who would," according to Hunter's statement.

Leman has not been charged in Eastern Kentucky.

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