Sandy Springs Podiatrist and Office Manager charged with Illegal Distribution of Fentanyl, Oxycodone, and Other Drugs
ATLANTA – Dr. Arnita Avery-Kelly, a licensed podiatrist, and Brenda Lewis, Avery-Kelly’s office manager, have been arraigned on federal charges of illegal distribution of opioid pain killers and other drugs at clinic locations purporting to provide podiatric care in Sandy Springs, and Lithonia, Georgia. Dr. Avery-Kelly and Ms. Lewis were indicted by a federal grand jury on December 21, 2016.
“Dr. Avery-Kelly was trusted to provide appropriate medical care to her patients,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn. “Instead, with the assistance of Ms. Lewis, she allegedly prescribed addictive opioids without any legitimate medical need. Addiction to powerful prescription opioids unfortunately continues to take a daily toll on many members of our community.”
Daniel R. Salter, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented on the case, “It is sad commentary when persons in the medical community abuse their positions of trust to hide behind the veil of legitimacy to commit criminal acts. The reckless distribution of pharmaceuticals results in addiction and death. Many thanks to the men and women in law enforcement who made this case a success.”
“Health care fraud and the abuse of prescription medications are increasing threats to our local communities,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Atlanta. “HHS-OIG continues to focus resources on those who divert prescription medication for profit and abuse. Our criminal investigators will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring the responsible individuals to justice.”
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court: Dr. Arnita Avery-Kelly is a licensed podiatrist, which means she is permitted to evaluate and treat the foot and leg. A nearly three-year federal investigation began after the Georgia Drug & Narcotics Agency (GDNA) visited Dr. Avery-Kelly in November 2013, and February 2014, to discuss high volume, high dosage prescriptions she had written for opioids. The indictment alleges that despite GDNA’s warnings, Dr. Avery-Kelly, with the assistance of office manager, Brenda Lewis, continued to prescribe large volumes of controlled substances without a legitimate medical need and outside the scope of a podiatric practice.
For example, during a nine-month period between December 2014 through August 2015, Dr. Avery-Kelly allegedly prescribed over 116,500 oxycodone 30mg pills, 41,800 hydromorphone 8mg pills, and 400 fentanyl patches. In April 2016, agents with the DEA and HHS executed a federal search warrant at Dr. Avery-Kelly’s office in Sandy Springs. At that time, Dr. Avery-Kelly voluntarily surrendered her DEA registration that permitted her to prescribe controlled substances.
Dr. Arnita Avery-Kelly, 54, and Brenda Lewis, 55, both of Atlanta, Georgia, were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judges Russell G. Vineyard and Catherine M. Salinas, respectively.
Avery-Kelly and Ms. Lewis are both charged with conspiring to distribute controlled substances outside the usual course of professional medical practice and for no legitimate medical purpose from November 2013 to December 2015. The drugs allegedly supplied include oxycodone, hydromorphone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, phentermine, alprazolam, and promethazine with codeine. Avery-Kelly is also charged with two counts of maintaining a podiatry clinic – first in Lithonia and later in Sandy Springs – for the purpose of illegally distributing drugs. Finally, Avery-Kelly is charged with fifty-seven individual counts of illegal drug distribution for specific prescriptions written to three separate customers. Ms. Lewis is charged with aiding and abetting Avery-Kelly for eight of those prescriptions.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the DEA and HHS, with valuable assistance provided by the Georgia Drug & Narcotics Agency, Georgia State Patrol, and the Sandy Springs Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer Whitfield and Michael Brown are prosecuting the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following web site: www.justthinktwice.com.
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 U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.