Attorney General William P. Barr and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex M. Azar III, together with multiple law enforcement partners, charged 60 defendants. Eight of them are in the Eastern District of Tennessee, which includes Coffee County.
“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” Barr said. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis. One of the Department's most promising new initiatives is the Criminal Division's Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which began its work in December. Just four months later, this team of federal agents and 12 prosecutors has charged 60 defendants for alleged crimes related to millions of prescriptions. I am grateful to the Criminal Division, their U.S. Attorney partners, and to the members of the strike force for this outstanding work that holds the promise of saving many lives in Appalachian communities.”
The charges are as follows:
On April 16, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Dr. Harrison Yang, 75, of Manchester, Tenn., with fraud violations in relation to healthcare. This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG, DEA, and TBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne-Marie Svolto, along with DOJ Trial Attorneys Drew Bradylyons and Louis Manzo, will represent the United States in court proceedings.
Dr. Charles Brooks, 61, of Maryville, Tenn., was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute Schedule III, IV and V drugs as well as one count of healthcare fraud for aiding and abetting a false statement related to health care matters.
Dr. Stephen Mynatt, 64, of Knoxville Tenn., and Dr. David Newman, 58, of Maryville, Tenn., were charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled drugs. Mynatt was also charged with two counts of distribution of Schedule II drugs. Both Mynatt and Newman were affiliated with Tennessee Valley Pain Specialists.
Dr. Henry Babenco, 58, of Paducah, Kentucky; Sharon Naylor, 53, of Jacksboro, Tenn.; Alicia Taylor, 29, of Oneida, Tenn.; and Gregory Madron, 54, of Jacksboro, Tenn., were charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled drugs. Naylor and Babenco were also charged with money laundering. Babenco, Naylor, Taylor, and Madron were all associated with LaFollette Wellness Center.
"Today's arrests clearly and tragically illustrate these so-called medical professionals were not legitimately assisting their patients - they were contributing to the opioid crisis epidemic that has destroyed families and taken so many lives. Not only were they engaging in criminal behavior, they were profiting from the addiction and pain of unsuspecting victims. Working alongside our partners, HHS, DEA, TBI, THP, and many other state and local agencies, we will continue to vigorously pursue anyone involved in trafficking opioids in this country while protecting the public's health and welfare,” said Troy Sowers, special agent in charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Knoxville Division.
The charges announced involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a priority for the Department. According to the CDC, approximately 115 Americans die every day of an opioid-related overdose.
“Unfortunately, the Appalachian Region, which includes the Eastern District of Tennessee, is experiencing a surge in drug abuse and overdose related deaths,” said U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey. “Today is an example of how our office is working with our law enforcement partners in the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force to identify and prosecute dishonest medical professionals and others engaged in health care fraud schemes involving illegal prescription, distribution, possession, and use of opioids.”
Since July 2017, DEA has issued 31 immediate suspension orders, 129 orders to show cause, and received 1386 surrenders for cause nationwide for violations of the Controlled Substances Act.