Physician Assistant Found Guilty Following Two-Day Jury Trial
Melissa Lynn Hartwell Found Guilty of 42 Drug-Related Charges
Abingdon, VIRGINIA – A physician assistant who allowed phentermine tablets to be distributed using her Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration, was found guilty today following at three-day jury trial in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon, Acting United States Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle announced.
Lynn Hartwell, 41, of Marion, Va., was found guilty today on all counts after a jury deliberated for three and one-half hours after hearing three days of evidence. Hartwell was found guilty of one count of conspiring to distribute a controlled substance (phentermine), one count of conspiracy to allow the use of her DEA registration number by another person, 20 counts of distributing phentermine and 20 counts of allowing the use of her DEA registration by another person.
According to evidence presented at trial by Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer, Hartwell worked as a physician assistant at MTRx, a weight loss clinic in Bristol, Tennessee, operated, at the time, by Marvin Allen Stanley and owned by his wife, Tracey Michelle Stanley. The Stanleys previously pled guilty to their roles in the conspiracy.
Evidence at trial showed that Hartwell allowed the Stanleys to use her DEA registration number to order phentermine and dispense phentermine to individuals who Hartwell never examined. The clinic was open Monday through Saturday, but Hartwell typically only worked on Mondays and Fridays. On days she did not work, patients received phentermine without ever being examined by Hartwell. Hartwell later signed and initialed the patient charts to indicate she approved the dispensing of the phentermine.
Also, Hartwell and the Stanley allowed a person who did not work at the clinic to fill out patient charts and obtain and deliver phentermine to her friends and acquaintances. Once or twice a week, Norma Jean Marsh, a.k.a. “Trixie,” a registered nurse, went to MTRx and spent 15 or 20 minutes filling out patient files for friends and acquaintances of hers from the Saltville area. Then Hartwell and the Stanleys provided her with phentermine for those friends and acquaintances. Several of those individuals never were seen as patients at the clinic. Marsh previously pled guilty to her role in the conspiracy.
Phentermine is a Schedule IV controlled substance. It is related chemically and pharmacologically to amphetamine, which is extensively abused.
At sentencing, Hartwell faces a statutory maximum sentence, per count, of imprisonment for a term of five years and a fine of $250,000. She remains on bond pending sentencing. Her sentencing date has not been scheduled.
MTRx was previously dismissed from the case because it is under new ownership unrelated to the defendants. Marvin Stanley, Tracey Stanley and Norma Marsh are scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2017.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad in Roanoke, with the assistance of the Virginia Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Bristol (Tennessee) Police Department, and Saltville (Virginia) Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer prosecuted the case for the United States.