MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Dozens of medical professionals are facing drug-related charges after a federal investigation.
They are accused of over-prescribing drugs and putting the public at risk, and 32 of those professionals come from Tennessee.
The Department of Justice says they expect more medical professionals to be charged.
Opioid-related overdoses killed more than 47,000 people in 2017, according to the CDC. To combat the deadly epidemic, law enforcement agencies nationwide say they’re going to the source.
"If so called medical professionals behave like drug dealers, the Department of Justice is going to treat them like drug dealers," said Brian Benczkowski, assistant attorney general.
Officials with the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, or ARPO, announced the arrests of 60 people across several states Wednesday, including Tennessee.
Those arrests include doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists. Many of them are charged with felony controlled substance violations.
Jeffrey Young, who works out of Jackson, Tennessee, branded himself “Rock Doc” for his affinity for the Rock 'n’ Roll lifestyle as seen in a series of videos on his YouTube channel.
According to a federal indictment, he treated patients while drunk or after using marijuana. It also says Young prescribed controlled substances to his patients for money, notoriety and sexual favors.
Young is one of 15 people charged in the Western District of Tennessee. Eight were charged in the Eastern District and nine were charged in the Middle District.
Two doctors from Shelby County are also charged with illegally prescribing opioids.
Anesthesiologist Dr. Michael Hellman works out of an office on Poplar View Parkway in Collierville.
According to a federal indictment, he wrote his patients prescriptions for Oxycodone, Naloxone and Promethazine with Codeine for an illegitimate medical purpose.
Psychiatrist Richard Farmer was also indicted. His specialty is treating addiction.
Farmer’s indictment says he prescribed Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Alprazolam and Clonazepam “to patients in exchange for sexual favors and the companionship of female patients.”
Farmer’s practice is located in an office building on Lynnfield in East Memphis. Federal investigators also say he failed to maintain proper patient files, “ignored the risks of addiction” and “prescribed Oxycodone to a patient while she was pregnant.”
Former nurse practitioner James Litton is also charged with writing illegal prescriptions for opioids.
According to an indictment, Dr. Thomas Hughes wrote himself prescriptions for testosterone for a span of three years.
These Mid-South men are all caught up in the largest federal sting of its kind.
“Today’s take down is the single largest prescription opioid law enforcement operation in history,” said Amy Hess, with the FBI.
A total of 60 people, including 53 medical professionals in states including Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee, were all arrested.
“These cases involve approximately 350,000 opioid prescriptions and more than 32 million pills,” said Benczkowski.
Federal officials say they're working with patients who may have been impacted by this arrest.
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