East Tennessee doctors, medical professionals charged in multi-state opioid operation

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CINCINNATI, Ohio (WATE) – Federal officials announced charges Wednesday against 60 people, 53 of whom are medical professionals, in a huge law enforcement action involving opioids across 11 federal districts in five states, including Tennessee.

U.S. attorneys from Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Alabama along with FBI, DEA and other officials discussed of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force in a news conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The operation focuses mainly on medical professionals involved in the distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics. The charges involve over 350,000 prescriptions for controlled substances and over 32 million pills.

Officials say of the 60 people charged, eight of them are in East Tennessee. Five doctors, a nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant and an office manager were charged in four cases. Two of the doctors were charged with health care fraud and three of the cases are related to alleged pill mill operations.

The following people have been indicted in the East Tennessee district;

  • Dr. Charles Brooks, 61, of Maryville – Charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute Schedule III, IV, and V drugs as well as one count of health care fraud
  • Dr. Stephen Mynatt, 64, of Knoxville – Charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled drugs and two counts of distribution of Schedule II drugs
  • Dr. David Newman, 58, of Maryville – Charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II drugs
  • Dr. Henry Babenco, 58, of Paducah, Kentucky – Charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II drugs and money laundering
  • Sharon Naylor, 53, of Jacksboro – Charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II drugs and money laundering
  • Alicia Taylor, 29, of Oneida – Charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II drugs
  • Gregory Madron, 54, of Jacksboro – Charged with conspiracy to distribute Schedule II drugs
  • Dr. Harrison Yang, 75, of Manchester – Charged with healthcare fraud violations

Mynatt and Newman were affiliated with East Tennessee Pain Specialists in South Knoxville, which was raided on March 4.

Babenco, Naylor, Taylor and Madron were all affiliated with LaFollette Wellness Center.

“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” Attorney General William P. Barr said. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis.”

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