HOPE Clinic Physician Pleads Guilty to Drug Crime
BECKLEY, W.Va. – A South Carolina physician pled guilty to a drug crime, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart. William Earley, D.O., 63, pled guilty to distributing oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional medical practice and beyond the bounds of medical practice.
“Earley is the latest drug dealer in a lab coat to plead guilty to charges brought by my office,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “In fact, six medical providers have pled guilty to date as a result of the investigation into HOPE Clinic’s prescribing practices.”
Earley admitted that he worked at the Charleston HOPE Clinic, which held itself out as specializing in the treatment of chronic pain through opioid pain medication. However, Earley admitted to having no formal training in the treatment of chronic pain patients but stated he was reassured by other HOPE Clinic physicians and by a staffing company that the HOPE Clinic was set up to provide appropriate treatment to patients suffering from chronic pain. While working at the HOPE Clinic, Earley admitted that it became apparent to him that some of the patients were not being properly evaluated prior to the doctors writing them prescriptions for opioids. Earley admitted that the patients’ files were poorly kept and often had little relevant medical information in them. Many of the patients came to the HOPE Clinic from out of state and most patients paid in cash.
On April 24, 2014, Earley admitted to prescribing patient D.J.B. 120 Percocet 10mg/325mg pills and 60 Oxycodone 10 mg pills. Earley admitted that a review of D.J.B.’s medical chart showed that by April 24, 2014, he had four failed drug tests and had reported his medication stolen. Despite these red flags, Earley did not do a physical examination of D.J.B., or address any of his failed drug screens with him, and he did not discuss the possibility of addiction or diversion with him on April 24, 2014, before issuing him two short-acting oxycodone prescriptions. Earley admitted that the prescriptions he issued to D.J.B. were not for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional medical practice and were beyond the bounds of medical practice.
Earley faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced on May 11, 2020.
The investigation was 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 – Office of Criminal Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 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.
United States District Judge Frank Volk presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorneys Monica D. Coleman and Steven I. Loew are handling the prosecution.
(Note: this guilty plea was withdrawn on August 24, 2022. On September 8, 2022, Earley pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:22-cr-168.)