Owner Of Mid-State Opioid Treatment Programs Agrees to Settle Allegations Of PPP Fraud & Controlled Substance Act Violations
NASHVILLE – A former Clay County, Tennessee physician was found guilty yesterday of 45 counts of violations relating to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), health care fraud, and obstruction of justice, announced acting U.S. Attorney Thomas J. Jaworski.
A federal jury began deliberating Friday and returned the verdict yesterday against Gilbert Ross Ghearing 69, of Crossville, Tennessee, following a five-week trial in U.S. District Court. The jury found Ghearing guilty of 21 counts of health care fraud, 22 counts of prescribing controlled substances without legitimate medical purpose outside the usual course of professional practice, and two counts of obstruction of justice. The jury acquitted Ghearing of 18 counts of health care fraud and CSA violations.
“Doctors serve as the gatekeepers to our healthcare system and the system bestows a great deal of trust in physicians to make it work,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jaworski. “I commend our law enforcement partners and our trial team for their unparalleled dedication and commitment to ensure that justice was served in a long and protracted investigation and prosecution.”
According to the evidence presented at trial, Gilbert Ghearing, owned and operated a medical clinic in Celina, Tenn., located in direct proximity to four pharmacies. He also provided medical services at another location in Fentress County, Tenn. Between 2016 and 2019, Ghearing repeatedly violated the CSA by prescribing Schedule II and Schedule IV drugs, including benzodiazepines and opioids, outside the usual course of professional practice without legitimate medical purposes to people suffering from active substance use disorders, who abused the substances in combination with illicit drugs and alcohol, repeatedly overdosed, and were hospitalized. The majority of Ghearing’s patients had Medicare or TennCare insurance, Tennessee’s Medicaid program. Ghearing caused pharmacies to submit fraudulent claims to these insurance programs for controlled substance prescriptions written by him that were not medically necessary.
After Ghearing was indicted in June 2019, he altered the medical records of the patients identified in the indictment. A superseding indictment in October 2022 charged Ghearing with obstruction of justice based on the alterations.
Ghearing faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the CSA convictions, 20 years on the obstruction of justice, and 10 years on health care fraud convictions. A sentencing date has not yet been set. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services-Office of Inspector General; and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The DOJ Fraud Section Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force provided valuable investigative resource assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah K. Bogni, Juliet Aldridge, and Amanda J. Klopf prosecuted the case.
# # # # #
Public Affairs Officer