A Texas physician assistant was convicted today for distributing more than 1.2 million opioid pills during his employment at two Houston-area clinics that operated as pill mills.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, physician assistant Charles Thompson, 76, of Houston, illegally prescribed and helped others illegally prescribe controlled substances to individuals posing as patients at West Parker Medical Clinic (West Parker) and Priority Wellness Clinic (Priority Wellness).
Trial evidence showed that from June 2015 through July 2016, while at West Parker, Thompson helped a doctor unlawfully prescribe hydrocodone and carisoprodol, a combination of controlled substances known as the “Las Vegas Cocktail,” to thousands of individuals posing as patients. Thompson himself also issued unlawful prescriptions for carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant). So-called “runners” brought numerous people to pose as patients at West Parker and paid the clinic approximately $220 to $500 in cash for each visit that resulted in prescriptions for dangerous drugs. Throughout the scheme, West Parker made approximately $1.75 million from prescriptions, from which Thompson was paid over $208,000. A jury previously convicted James Pierre, the doctor who worked at West Parker, of unlawfully prescribing over one million opioid pills.
Court documents and trial evidence also show that Thompson helped others illegally prescribe controlled substances, including hydrocodone and oxycodone, at Priority Wellness from May to July 2017, which opened in December 2016 after West Parker closed. Trial evidence showed that Priority Wellness operated as a pill mill, in a similar manner to West Parker: runners brought people posing as patients to Priority Wellness and paid the clinic between $300 and $600, depending on whether the purported patient was getting a prescription for hydrocodone or oxycodone, almost always prescribed in combination with carisoprodol. Throughout the scheme, Priority Wellness made approximately $1.1 million and Thompson made between $700 and $900 per day in cash.
Thompson was convicted of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances and seven counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances in connection with his conduct at West Parker. He was convicted of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances and one count of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances in connection with his conduct at Priority Wellness. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 3 and faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of conviction. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
To date, six individuals have pleaded guilty in connection with their conduct at West Parker or Priority Wellness.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery for the Southern District of Texas; and Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux of the DEA’s Houston Division made the announcement.
DEA Houston investigated the case.
Assistant Chief Aleza Remis and Trial Attorney Maryam Adeyola of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorney John-Alex Romano of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon Muschenheim for the Southern District of Texas is handling forfeiture.