Owner of Several North Texas Pill Mills Pleads Guilty to Drug Distribution Conspiracy
DALLAS —John Christopher Ware, a/k/a “Little Chris,” 45, formerly of Dallas but now residing in Houston, appeared yesterday before U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle and pleaded guilty to a drug distribution conspiracy stemming from his operation of several “pill mills” in north Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
Specifically, Ware pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance (hydrocodone). The conspiracy count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine. Ware remains on bond pending sentencing. Sentencing is scheduled for August 10, 2017.
Co-conspirator Stanley James, Jr., 57, of Dallas and Houston, pleaded guilty in May 2016 to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance (hydrocodone). James is scheduled to be sentenced on June 22, 2017.
According to plea documents in the case, Ware and co-conspirators distributed more than 2,000,000 10mg hydrocodone pills through medical clinics in Dallas, Texas and elsewhere. Ware owned and managed these clinics, and operated them illegitimately, knowing that the prescriptions for these pills had not been issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a medical practitioner acting in the usual course of professional practice. Between October 2014 and October 2015 more than 700,000 hydrocodone pills (most of which were 10 mg pills) were distributed in relation to the clinics he owned and operated. The hydrocodone quantities encompass the prescriptions issued by the doctors, physician's assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurses who worked at the clinics that Ware owned, managed, and directed.
A pill mill is a facility that appears to be a medical clinic but in reality distributes large quantities of controlled substances, such as hydrocodone, to the public without regard for medical necessity or therapeutic benefit to the patient. Despite employment of licensed medical practitioners, a pill mill does not operate as a legitimate medical clinic because the controlled-substance prescriptions that are issued are done so with the knowledge that they are not for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice.
According to plea documents in the case, Ware and James owned and operated Great Southwest Medical Clinic on Great Southwest Parkway in Dallas; Arlington Oaks Adult Medical Clinic on Billings Street in Arlington, Texas; and Redbird Family Medical Clinic on Camp Wisdom Road in Dallas. Ware and James owned and operated these three medical clinics under an umbrella company, J.C. Rapha Medical Management Group, LLC.
Ware operated in the following manner at each of the above-identified clinics: The driver, sometimes also known as a “script ring leader,” or another co-conspirator such as someone associated with the clinic, coached the recruit on what to say inside the clinic to obtain a prescription for hydrocodone. The driver or script ring leader paid for the recruit’s visit to the clinic, either by giving the recruit money to pay the clinic or by paying the clinic directly. The clinics only accepted cash from patients seeking pain medications, including hydrocodone, and charged approximately $150 per visit for established patients.
Ware took steps to minimize the possibility of detection by law enforcement at the pill mills, including limiting patients to recruits accompanied by known and trusted drivers. Ware attempted to maximize profit by providing the prescriptions sought by the script ring leaders, including 10mg hydrocodone. To accomplish this, medical practitioners were hired who where willing to write the sought-after prescriptions even though the prescriptions were not being issued for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice.
The Drug Enforcement Administration investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Myria Boehm is in charge of the prosecution.
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