KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE – On December 9 and 10, 2020, defendants Cynthia Clemons, Courtney Newman, and Holli Carmichael Womack, all of whom are nurse practitioners, were sentenced for their roles in prescribing massive quantities of opioids from pill mills in Knoxville, Tennessee. Clemons was sentenced to 42 months in prison, Newman was sentenced to 40 months in prison, and Womack received a sentence of 30 months in prison.
U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Special Agent in Charge Joseph Carrico of the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office made the announcement.
Clemons and Newman, both of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Womack, of Crossville, Tennessee, were sentenced by United States District Judge Thomas A. Varlan. All three defendants were found guilty by a jury on February 13, 2020, of using drug-involved premises for the purposes of distributing opioid narcotics.
The evidence at trial proved that, collectively, Clemons, Newman, and Womack prescribed millions of tablets of oxycodone, oxymorphone, and morphine from the pill mills. All told, the pill mills where these defendants worked generated over $21 million in revenue, with a corresponding street value of $360 million. The conspiracy involved four separate clinics in Tennessee, each of which the jury determined were drug-involved premises, i.e., pill mills. The proof at trial established that the vast majority of the patients at these pill mills were addicted to opioids.
“Our office is determined to seek prison sentences for medical providers who think their licenses will protect them from prosecution,” said United States Attorney J. Douglas Overbey. “The sentences imposed by Judge Varlan should demonstrate that there will be severe consequences for illegally dispensing addictive narcotics.”
“Opioid abuse destroys lives and it devastates families. The FBI takes our responsibility to investigate those who exploit their medical license at the expense of those suffering from addiction very seriously. We, along with our federal, state, and local partners, will remain vigilant to assure that unscrupulous individuals are brought to justice,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Carrico.
This sweeping prosecution, which has resulted in approximately 140 convictions so far, is the result of an investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the Organized Crime and Gang Section, U.S. Department of Justice, and the FBI High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), comprised of investigators assigned to the task force by the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Police Department, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Roane County Sheriff’s Office, Harriman Police Department, and Clinton Police Department. Other agencies provided invaluable assistance, including the Rome Attaché of the Office of International Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice, FBI’s liaison in Rome, FBI’s Miami Field Office, the Hollywood, Florida, Police Department, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Knoxville Diversion Group.
The investigation that led to this prosecution, as described above, fall under the auspices of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s drug supply reduction strategy. OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Stone, Eastern District of Tennessee, and Deputy Chief Attorney Kelly Pearson and Trial Attorney Damare Theriot, both of the Organized Crime and Gang Section, U.S. Department of Justice, represented the United States in the prosecution of this case.