Former Heart Surgeon Convicted of Unlawfully Prescribing and Dispensing Oxycodone
ROME, Ga. – James Earl Chapman, Jr., a doctor from Macon, Georgia, has been convicted after a two-week jury trial on 49 counts of drug trafficking for prescribing and dispensing controlled narcotics at a Cartersville, Georgia, “pill mill” pain clinic that served as a front for the mass distribution of addictive pain killers.
“A doctor’s first responsibility is to do no harm to others, but evidence at trial established that Dr. Chapman relentlessly and aggressively prescribed controlled pain killing medication to patients who were addicted to them,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn. “Many of those patients sold the pills for financial gain, and to finance return trips to the clinic. A jury has guaranteed that Chapman is no longer in a position to do harm.”
Daniel R. Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division said of the case, “Removing and ultimately eliminating healthcare providers who unlawfully dispense pharmaceutical products for non-medical reasons is an important part of DEA’s mission. This medical doctor distributed copious quantities of opiate-based pills to scores of drug-seeking patients. At one point, Dr. Chapman received the largest number of Oxycodone pills of all doctors in the state of Georgia. Dr. Chapman will no longer be able to commit such unlawful acts due to the hard work and dedication put forth by our federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts who made this investigation a success.”
“This conviction demonstrates the great work of law enforcement at all levels to investigate and prosecute the illegal distribution of prescription narcotics affecting Georgia and our surrounding states. The GBI remains committed to working with our local and federal partners in drug enforcement to address these types of crimes,” said Vernon Keenan, Director, Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
“We are committed to ‘following the money trail’ to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot. “This verdict is a vital element in maintaining public confidence that these individuals and others who commit similar crimes will be held accountable.”
“We were glad to see the results of good police work in this case. We believe that the verdict in this case will send a strong message to those who prey on individuals with addiction will not be tolerated. I am pleased with the hard work that went into this case from the investigation to the successful prosecution. It proves to our communities that when law enforcement agencies work together for a common goal good things happens as demonstrated in this guilty verdict. From a local prospective we were grateful for all the assistance we received in investigating and prosecuting this case,” said Captain Mark Mayton, Commander, Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force.
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the indictment, and evidence presented in court: In May 2010, using information from the FBI/NW Georgia Criminal Enterprise Safe Streets Task Force, federal, state and local law enforcement agents joined together in investigation of Atlanta Medical Group, (“AMG”) after learning that the clinic, located in Cartersville, Georgia, was prescribing pain pills outside the bounds of legitimate medical practice. The investigation revealed that James Earl Chapman, Jr., served as the clinic’s primary doctor. Jason Votrobek and Roland Castellanos, both of whom were found guilty in a previous trial, financed and operated the clinic, along with Jesse Violante. Tara Atkins served as the office manager. Violante and Atkins previously pleaded guilty to charges related to their conduct at the clinic.
Chapman, while serving in his role at AMG, failed to fulfill a doctor’s basic obligations to conduct physical examinations of patients and verify medical histories before prescribing astronomical quantities of controlled substances. Significantly, in the first year the clinic opened, Chapman received the highest number of oxycodone pills of any doctor in the State of Georgia. Chapman continued to prescribe controlled substances in dangerous amounts and combinations even after he received notice that many pharmacies in the area were refusing to fill the prescriptions and that the medical board had subpoenaed his records to determine the propriety of his prescribing practices. Those patient records revealed that Chapman knew that at least some of his patients were drug addicts: the records contained information (from a nurse or the “patients” themselves) that those patients had previously purchased the drugs illegally.
In fact, more than 98% of the patients traveled to AMG from surrounding states in order to receive prescriptions for controlled substances. Furthermore, the evidence showed that Chapman was a drug user himself, and that he asked clinic employees to assist him in illegally obtaining narcotics for his own use. For example, on one day in particular, Chapman had another clinic employee fill out narcotics prescriptions for him to sign, as he was too intoxicated to do so himself. Still, his own drug use did not stop him from seeing “patients.”
James Earl Chapman, Jr., 64, of Macon, Georgia, will be sentenced on November 13, 2015, before the U.S. District Judge Harold L. Murphy.
Jason Cole Votrobek, 31, of Vero Beach Florida, and Roland Rafael Castellanos, 34, of Hollywood, Florida, the financiers and operators of AMG were previously convicted by a jury on March 26, 2014. They were both sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
A third financier and operator, Jesse Violante, 35, of Vero Beach, Florida, and AMG’s office manager, Tara Atkins, 36, of Cartersville, Georgia, each previously pleaded guilty to charges related to their conduct at the clinic. Violante was sentenced to four years, four months in federal prison. Atkins was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Bartow County Sheriff's Office, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. This case was initiated by the FBI/ Northwest Georgia Criminal Enterprise Safe Streets Task Force.
Assistant United States Attorneys G. Scott Hulsey, Cassandra J. Schansman, and Laurel R. Boatright prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.