A Martinsville doctor faces anywhere from 20 years to life after a federal jury convicted him of distributing more than 500,000 controlled substances to patients who often traveled hundreds of miles to see him. Prosecutors say Joel Smithers perpetuated opioid addiction “on a massive scale”.
From the U.S. Attorney’s Office: Abingdon, VIRGINIA – Joel Smithers, a Martinsville-based doctor, was found guilty today of 861 federal drug charges at the conclusion of a nine-day jury trial in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced.
The jury convicted Smithers, 36, after seven hours of deliberation, on one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of illegally distributing controlled substances, one count of possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances, and 859 counts of illegally prescribing Schedule II controlled substances. The jury also found that the oxycodone and oxymorphone Smithers prescribed to a woman from West Virginia caused her death.
“This defendant not only violated his Hippocratic Oath to his patients, but he perpetuated, on a massive scale, the vicious cycle of addiction, despair, and destruction,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “We have no higher priority than investigating drug-dealing physicians and other corrupt health-care practitioners and putting them in federal prison.”
Evidence presented at trial showed Smithers opened an office in Martinsville in August 2015, and prescribed controlled substances to every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed. The drugs involved included oxymorphone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl. A majority of those receiving prescriptions from Smithers traveled hundreds of miles, one-way, to receive the drugs. Smithers did not accept insurance and took in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments prior to a search warrant being executed at his office on March 7, 2017.
United States District Court Judge James P. Jones ordered Smithers taken into custody pending sentencing. Sentencing is scheduled for August 16 at 10:00 a.m. in Abingdon. Smithers faces a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for a term of twenty years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. He also faces a maximum fine of more than $200 million dollars.
The case was investigated by the Roanoke offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad and the Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General. Task force officers with the police departments of Bristol, Martinsville, Buena Vista, Roanoke, and Roanoke County; the Sheriff’s Offices of Henry County and Pittsylvania County; and the Virginia State Police assisted in the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Cagle Juhan, Randy Ramseyer and Zachary T. Lee prosecuted the case for the United States