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Press Release

Federal Jury Convicts Four Defendants for Operating Knoxville-Area Pill Mills

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A federal jury returned a guilty verdict yesterday against four defendants for their roles in running “pill mills,” announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee.

A federal jury convicted Sylvia Hofstetter, 55, of Miami, Florida, and Courtney Newman, 44, Cynthia Clemons, 47, and Holli Womack, aka “Holli Carmichael,” 46, all of Knoxville, Tennessee.  The jury returned guilty verdicts against Hofstetter for a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy, a drug conspiracy, money laundering and maintaining drug-involved premises, and guilty verdicts against Newman, Clemons and Womack for maintaining drug-involved premises. 

The verdict follows a three-month trial presided over by U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  The United States presented testimony from 55 witnesses throughout the trial, including former patients, employees, medical providers, and expert medical witnesses. 

Sentencing hearings are tentatively set for Newman in July 2020, Clemons and Womack in August 2020, and Hofstetter in September 2020.

The drug conspiracy involved the distribution of over 11 million tablets of oxycodone, oxymorphone and morphine that generated over $21 million of clinic revenue, with a corresponding street value of $360 million.  The conspiracy involved four separate clinics in Tennessee, which, the evidence showed, were essentially pill mills.  Before opening these pill mills in Tennessee, testimony established that Hofstetter worked at a Florida-based pill mill in Hollywood, Florida, which was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in December 2010.  Testimony revealed that law enforcement’s crackdown on hundreds of pill mills in South Florida during that time-period precipitated the move to East Tennessee, where a large percentage of those clinics’ opioid-addicted customers lived.

The charges resulted from an investigation by the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section (OCGS), the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, 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 Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, FBI’s liaison in Rome, FBI’s Miami Field Office, the Hollywood, Florida, Police Department, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Tennessee Department of Health and the DEA’s Knoxville Diversion Group.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy L. Stone, Deputy Chief Attorney Kelly Pearson and Trial Attorney Damare Theriot of OCGS prosecuted the case.

This case was part of the department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the HIDTA programs.  OCDETF is the primary weapon of the United States against the highest level drug trafficking organizations operating within the United States, importing drugs into the United States, or laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking.  The HIDTA program enhances and coordinates drug control efforts among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.  The program provides agencies with coordination, equipment, technology and additional resources to combat drug trafficking and its harmful consequences in critical regions of the United States.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at  

Updated February 19, 2020

Drug Trafficking
Prescription Drugs
Press Release Number: 20-202