Federal Jury Convicts Chattanooga Pain Clinics Owner Of Drug Trafficking And Financial Crimes
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Following a 25-day trial in U.S. District Court that began on Nov. 3, 2014, a jury convicted Barbara Lang, a.k.a. “Aunt Bea,” 60, of Rossville, Ga., of conspiring to illegally distribute controlled substances (oxycodone and Xanax) at Superior One Pain Clinic and Primary Care Pain Clinic, two pain management clinics owned and operated by Lang.
The jury also convicted Lang of operating drug-involved businesses at five of the six locations used by the clinics. Lang was also convicted of illegally “structuring” cash deposits into Primary Care’s bank account at First Tennessee Bank in an effort to avoid triggering currency transaction reporting requirements. Altogether, she was convicted of two drug conspiracy charges; five maintaining a drug-involved business; and 14 structured transactions to avoid reporting requirements. She was acquitted of one count of maintaining a drug involved business, eight structuring counts, and one charge of harboring a fugitive, her daughter, Faith Blake, who was also charged in this case.
Sentencing for Lang is set for 9:00 a.m., Apr. 9, 2015, in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga. She faces a maximum sentence of 210 years in prison and forfeitures of up to $4 million. Approximately $1 million has already been seized in the case.
Lang was charged along with three others who have all previously pleaded guilty. Lang’s daughter, Faith Blake, pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally distribute drugs through Superior One medical clinic, a business she operated with her mother. Blake also pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally distribute drugs through Elite Care, another Chattanooga pain clinic that she operated. Additionally, she pleaded guilty to obstructing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and failure to appear for a federal court proceeding.
Dr. Jerome Sherard, Superior One’s medical director, pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally distribute drugs at Superior One Medical Clinic and at the Sherard Clinic, his own practice. Charles Larmore, a nurse practitioner employed by the Lang at Superior One and Primary Care, pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally distribute drugs at both those clinics.
Evidence presented at trial established that Lang and Blake operated Superior One as a “pill mill,” a location where individuals could easily obtain prescriptions for powerful pain killers such as oxycodone with little or no documented need. Armed guards patrolled the parking lots. Customers paid cash to obtain prescription drugs which were then abused and/or sold to others. Large doses of the drugs were routinely prescribed. Lang later opened Primary Care, and while she made some effort to present a more “legitimate” business, engaged in the several of the same illegal practices.
Records obtained from the State of Tennessee showed that Sherard and Larmore prescribed more narcotics than all but about 10 of the more than 20,000 prescribers in the state and routinely prescribed dangerous amounts and combinations of opioids and other narcotics. The jury heard evidence from clinic landlords, neighbors, customers, medical providers, wiretaps, and law enforcement officials that drug-seeking customers travelled hours to come to the clinics, engaged in drug activities around the clinics, and traded pills for cash. Customers would be given prescriptions even after they had failed drug tests, admitted abusing or selling drugs, or failed to document a medical need for the medication. During the seven months that it operated, Superior One generated over $2 million. During the 11 months that it operated, Primary Care generated approximately $2 million. The jury heard evidence that Lang “skimmed” approximately $175,000 from Primary Care that she did not report to the IRS. When agents searched her house they found a money-counting machine and $234,333 in cash in a safe.
Law enforcement agencies participating in the joint investigation which led to indictment and subsequent conviction of Lang, Blake, Sherard and Larmore included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Chattanooga Police Department, Roane County Sheriff’s Department, and Rockwood Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregg L. Sullivan and Michael D. Porter represented the United States at trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Stone prosecuted other individuals involved in the drug conspiracies.