HOPE Clinic Nurse Practitioner Pleads Guilty
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced that Teresa Emerson, 59, of Bristol, Virginia, pled guilty today to aiding and abetting obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. Stuart praised the investigation conducted by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, the Food and Drug Administration, the West Virginia State Police, the Kentucky State Police, the Beckley Police Department, the Virginia State Police, the Charleston Police Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“It’s tragic to think that any medical professional would continue to write prescriptions with no legitimate medical purpose to individuals suffering from addiction,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “I will use every available resource to combat the opioid epidemic which has caused so much death, despair and devastation throughout West Virginia. This includes holding medical professionals accountable when they violate federal laws designed to protect the health and safety of patients.”
Teresa Emerson worked as a licensed family nurse practitioner at the HOPE Clinic in Wytheville, Virginia, where she was authorized to write prescriptions for controlled substances for legitimate medical purposes in the usual course of professional practice. Emerson admitted that on February 4, 2015, while working at the clinic, she signed a prescription for 145 oxycodone compound 32mg to patient J.W. that was not for a legitimate medical purpose. Emerson admitted that she simply signed the prescription for what J.W. had previously been prescribed and intentionally ignored the fact that J.W. had at least three abnormal drug screens, including testing positive for drugs she had not been prescribed and testing negative for drugs that she was prescribed. Emerson further admitted that J.W.’s chart reflected that she had admitted to getting drugs off the street and during one of her visits, a staff member noted “track marks on her right arm.” During the plea hearing, Emerson admitted that despite these “red flags” she did not discuss the possibility of addiction with J.W. and that J.W.’s medical records did not support the initial prescription for pain medicine or any of the subsequent prescriptions for pain medicine. Emerson admitted that J.W. filled a prescription for oxycodone she provided to J.W. on February 4, 2015 at a pharmacy in Gilbert, Mingo County, West Virginia. J.W. has since admitted to being an addict and seeking the pills from HOPE Clinic for the purpose of feeding her addiction.
Emerson faces up to four years in prison when sentenced on November 29, 2018 and she has also agreed to surrender her DEA registration.
Assistant United States Attorney Monica D. Coleman and Steven I. Loew are handling the prosecution. United States District Judge Irene Berger presided over the plea hearing.
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