A federal jury on Friday returned a guilty verdict against a so-called “pill mill” physician who oversaw the illegal prescription of nearly a million units of narcotics with no legitimate medical purpose, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
Carlos Luis Venegas was convicted of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance before U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey in Dallas yesterday afternoon.
“These pill mills help to perpetuate the tragic opioid crisis gripping our country,” said U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox. “Last year, America lost, on average, 116 people per day to opioid overdoses. We cannot allow unscrupulous conduct by physicians to add to the supply of dangerous drugs on the streets.” (For additional facts and figures on the opioid epidemic, see the DEA’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment.)
According to evidence presented at trial, Venegas acted as the supervising physician for a series of sham medical clinics – all merely fronts for the illegal distribution of hydrocodone and alprazolam.
Members of the conspiracy, witnesses testified, paid homeless and indigent people to pose as patients seeking pain medication. Runners coached these men and women on how to describe their (nonexistent) symptoms, drove them to the clinics, and paid for their appointments.
At the clinics, nurse practitioners, working under Venegas’ supervision, conducted only cursory medical exams, witnesses said. Medical files seize from the clinics showed that most exams were conducted without any medical testing and rarely produced documentation of patients’ purported ailments.
At the conclusion of the visit, patients were almost always prescribed a cocktail of medications, including Hydrocodone and Xanax, generally for the highest dosages available.
Venegas now faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Sentencing has not yet been set.
Several of his codefendants, including several nurse practitioners and clinic managers, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.
The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Myria Boehm, Renee Hunter, and Nicholas Bunch prosecuted the case.