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Press Release

Former Nurse Practitioner Sentenced to Jail, Fined for Illegal Drug Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
Debra Shaffer Previously Worked at L5 Medical Clinics

ROANOKE, Va. – A 71-year-old former nurse practitioner, who worked at L5 Medical, a chain of pain clinics with locations in the Woodlawn, Lynchburg, Madison Heights, Blacksburg, and Christiansburg areas, was sentenced to jailtime and fined this week in federal court.

Debra Shaffer, of New Castle, Virginia, previously pleaded guilty to one count of using the DEA Registration number of another while prescribing controlled substances. DEA Registration numbers are unique identifiers issued by medical providers in order to track who issues drug prescriptions.

Shaffer was sentenced to five days in prison, a fine of $5,000, and one year of supervised release.

According to court documents, Shaffer was an important part of a years-long scheme to illegitimately distribute Suboxone by staff providers who lacked the training, experience, and legal authority to prescribe Suboxone (buprenorphine). The illegal use of DEA Registration numbers facilitated this scheme and was designed to deceive pharmacists and the Government about the true nature of who was writing the prescriptions for controlled substances. For example, Shaffer regularly saw opioid-addicted patients at the Christiansburg clinic and wrote Suboxone prescriptions under the name of doctors who did not see the patients. Some patients continued to receive controlled substance prescriptions even after showing obvious “red flags” of drug abuse, such as failing drug tests, taking unprescribed drugs, or having drug overdoses.

Shaffer also followed the advice of non-medical personnel in the course of prescribing controlled substances.  One of those individuals, Charles Wilson Adams, Jr., is currently serving a two-year prison sentence for federal drug charges related to the same clinics. Charges against other individuals remain pending.

United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh, Jared Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Washington Division, Maureen Dixon, Special Agent in Charge of HHS-OIG’s Philadelphia Region, Col. Gary Settle, Superintendent of the Virginia State Police, and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced the sentence.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Department of  Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General, the Virginia State Police, and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office - Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys S. Cagle Juhan, Jason Scheff, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Janine M. Myatt, Assistant Attorney General with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, prosecuted the case.

Updated October 20, 2023