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Press Release

Pain Clinic Owners Sentenced For Role In Operating Pill Mills In Tennessee And Florida

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On July 8, 2024, Clyde Christopher Tipton, 63, of Tazewell, Tennessee, was sentenced to 50 months in prison by the Honorable Thomas A. Varlan, United States District Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville.  Tipton was the final defendant to be sentenced in a sprawling pill mill case that resulted in the federal criminal convictions of approximately 140 defendants.  Following his incarceration, Tipton will be on supervised release for 3 years. 

As part of the plea agreement filed with the court, Tipton pleaded guilty to three counts in the superseding indictment: one count of conspiracy to launder money in violation of 18 § U.S.C. 1956(h), and two counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay healthcare kickbacks in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.  In February 2020, four co-defendants were found guilty at trial for their roles in operating or using pill mills to distribute opioids: Sylvia Hofstetter, 60, of Miami, Florida, Cynthia Clemons, 52, Courtney Newman, 48, and Holli Womack, 51, all of Knoxville.  Three other co-defendants, Luigi “Jimmy” Palma, 61, of Miami, Florida, Luca Sartini, 64, also of Miami, Florida, and Benjamin Rodriguez, 49, of Delray, Florida, have previously pleaded guilty to various counts of the superseding indictment and been sentenced for their roles in operating pill mills in Tennessee and Florida.

Tipton’s filed plea agreement, as well as the evidence presented at trial against Hofstetter, Clemons, Newman, and Womack, established that the pill mills owned and operated by Tipton and various co-defendants distributed over 11 million tablets of oxycodone, oxymorphone, and morphine that generated over $21 million in revenue, with a corresponding street value of $360 million.  The conspiracy involved four separate clinics in or near Knoxville, Tennessee, each of which was a pill mill.  A pill mill owned by Sartini, Palma, and Rodriguez, operating in Hollywood, Florida, gave rise to the Tennessee pill mills.  The stipulations and evidence demonstrated that, as law enforcement shut down hundreds of pill mills in South Florida, the Florida co-codefendants planned the move to East Tennessee where a large percentage of these clinics’ opioid-addicted customers lived.  The three tabbed Hofstetter to run the Tennessee pill mills.  She and Tipton later opened competing pill mills in Knoxville.

Palma and Sartini were sentenced on December 14, 2023, to 120 and 130 months in prison, respectively.  Rodriguez was sentenced on January 22, 2024, to 65 months in prison. 

U.S. Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III of the Eastern District of Tennessee and Special Agent in Charge Joseph E. Carrico of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made the announcement. 

This sweeping prosecution is the result of an investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the Violent Crime and Racketeering Section, U.S. Department of Justice, 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 Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI’s liaison in Rome, the FBI’s Miami Field Office, the Hollywood, Florida, Police Department, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Knoxville Diversion Group. 

Deputy Criminal Chief Tracy L. Stone, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Deputy Chief Kelly Pearson, Violent Crime and Racketeering Section, U.S. Department of Justice, represent the United States in the prosecution of this case.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (“OCDETF”) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.



Rachelle Barnes
Public Affairs Officers
(865) 545-4167

Updated July 9, 2024

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