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Florida woman guilty of operating multimillion-dollar pain clinics

A jury also convicted three nurse practitioners of maintaining a drug-involved premises, but declined to find them guilty of most other counts.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A federal jury Thursday afternoon found a Florida woman guilty of operating a multimillion-dollar pill mill scheme in East Tennessee.

Sylvia Hofstetter was convicted of more than 10 counts including racketeering, drug conspiracy and money laundering.

The East Tennessee panel, in a decision that confused defense attorneys, also convicted three nurse practitioners who worked at the clinics of counts of maintaining drug premises. 

But the panel acquitted Cynthia Clemons, Courtney Newman and Holli Womack Carmichael of almost all counts they faced in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, including actually prescribing the pills that addicts and drug dealers ended up getting.

With that puzzling verdict, the defense may seek an appeal.

"There are inconsistencies there that we're going to have to figure out," attorney Jeff Whitt, who along with Randy Reagan represents Clemons, told U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Varlan.

Clemons was convicted of two counts of maintaining a drug-involved premises. Newman and Womack Carmichael were convicted of single counts of the crime.

In addition, the jury declined to convict any of the women of engaging in drug crimes that factored into the deaths of several clinic patients. 

Authorities alleged Hofstetter oversaw several cash-only Knoxville area clinics, with Clemons, Newman and Womack Carmichael seeing patients and writing prescriptions. She moved to the Knoxville area from Florida about 2010 to run the clinics at the bidding of several backers who had profited from a clinic in Hollywood, Fla., testimony showed.

Starting in the early 2010s, Hofstetter opened clinics on Gallaher View Road, then Lenoir City and eventually on Lovell Road.

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Some 11 million opioid pills were prescribed out of the clinics, according to the government.

The clinics Hofstetter oversaw gave scant medical attention to the hundreds of patients they saw, the government alleged. The main purpose was to make money -- lots of money, according to the government.

Sentencing likely will be this summer in Knoxville.

Varlan ordered Hofstetter into custody to await sentencing. She's considered a flight risk.

The other three defendants can remain free on bond until sentencing.

The trial started the week of Oct. 21. Closing arguments were delivered the week of Jan. 27. 

Deliberations started but had to be stopped when a juror quit, citing health reasons. An alternate juror then took her place.

Varlan ordered that deliberations begin anew Jan. 31. They stopped the following week because of illness on the panel. They resumed this week.

Charles Burks represents Hofstetter.

Chris Oldham represents Newman, and Kit Rodgers represents Womack Carmichael.

Tracy Stone and Kelly Kathleen Pearson prosecuted the case for the government.

RELATED: Juror in, juror out: Panel weighing pill mill evidence has to restart deliberations

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