Eastern Kentucky pain clinic owners plead guilty to pill conspiracy

Two Eastern Kentucky pain clinic owners will be sentenced in September after admitting in federal court they conspired with doctors to illegally dispense more than 50,000 prescription pills, officials said Friday in a press release.

Tammy Cantrell, 40, of Oil Springs, and Shelby Lackey, 50, of Williamsport, pleaded guilty Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins to conspiracy to distribute and unlawfully dispense Oxycodone and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

The defendants are the first pain clinic owners in the Eastern District of Kentucky, which includes 67 counties, to have federal convictions for operating a pill mill and conspiring to illegally distribute Oxycodone, according to the release from U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey's office.

Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for Harvey's office, said in an e-mail that the office has previously prosecuted out-of-state pain clinic owners who unlawfully dispensed prescription drugs to Kentuckians.

Cantrell and Lackey agreed to forfeit about $500,000, which represents proceeds from the conspiracy. Cantrell was placed into federal custody, while Lackey was released on her own recognizance, the release said.

The defendants owned and operated Care More Pain Management LLC in Paintsville. From 2008 until about February 2012, they conspired with two doctors to dispense Oxycodone to Eastern Kentuckians without a legitimate medical purpose.

The doctors performed little or no physical examination before writing prescriptions that were usually for 90 Percocet 10 mg pills. Patients paid $200 for the initial visit and $185 for subsequent visits; all fees were paid in cash. One of the doctors previously admitted he saw between 40 and 50 patients in one day. In many instances, the doctors wrote prescriptions without seeing patients or signed blank prescriptions for office assistants to complete.

Cantrell and Lackey paid the doctors as much as $8,500 a week. The clinic did not accept insurance, and doctors made no referrals for physical rehabilitation.

The investigation started when local law enforcement told detectives with the Kentucky attorney general's office that Care More was seeing a high volume of patients, the release said. Patient lines at Care More stretched into the parking lot.

One of the doctors, Richard Albert, pleaded guilty in July 2012 to conspiring to distribute and dispense controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose. He also agreed to forfeit $500,000. Albert will be sentenced in June.

The other physician, Rano Bofill, was indicted in August 2012 for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and operating a drug involved premises. He previously pleaded not guilty and his trial is in May, according to the release.