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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 30, 2020

West Tennessee Psychiatrist Sentenced for Unlawfully Distributing Opioids

A west Tennessee psychiatrist was sentenced today to 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for unlawfully distributing opioids. 

Richard Farmer, 83, of Memphis, Tennessee, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Parker.  Farmer was found guilty by a jury on Feb. 21, 2020, of three counts of distribution of controlled substances outside the scope of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.

The defendant was charged in an April 2019 indictment as part of the first Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force Takedown, and his conviction was the first guilty trial verdict for the ARPO Strike Force.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that physicians who abuse their power to promote and prolong drug addiction for their own benefit are punished accordingly,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. 

“Opioid misuse and abuse is an insidious epidemic, created in large part by the over-prescribing and diversion of potent opioids,” said U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee.  “This sentence demonstrates our ability and resolve to aggressively prosecute and hold accountable any medical personnel who misuse their positions of trust to exploit the very people coming to them for help.”

“Doctors who prey on those who suffer from the disease of addiction are no better than street corner drug dealers,” said Special Agent in Charge Todd Scott of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Louisville Division.  “DEA remains committed to rooting out and locking up all healthcare practitioners who exploit the weak and put greed above patient care.”

According to the evidence presented at trial, Farmer prescribed opioids to three sisters with whom he had ongoing sexual contact during the time he was prescribing.  The evidence showed that between July 2016 and January 2019, Farmer prescribed over 1,200 pills, even though the three sisters showed clear signs of addiction.  The evidence further showed that he kept almost no patient files on these women.  Farmer also provided opioid prescriptions for the women’s friends, without keeping patient files for them or requiring medical examinations.

The DEA, along with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Jackson Police Department, investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Jillian Willis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Damon Griffin of the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the ARPO Strike Force.  Since its inception in October 2018, the ARPO Strike Force, which operates in 10 districts, has charged more than 70 defendants who are collectively responsible for distributing more than 50 million pills.  The ARPO Strike Force is part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Program, led by the Fraud Section.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $19 billion.  In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-Office of Inspector General, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

Topic(s): 
Opioids
Prescription Drugs
Health Care Fraud
Press Release Number: 
20-1190
Updated October 30, 2020