CINCINNATI (WKYT) - The U.S. Department of Justice has announced 60 people, including several Kentucky doctors, were charged in a massive crackdown on the illegal prescribing and distributing of narcotics.
Mohammed A.H. Mazumbder (top left), Scotty Akers (top right), Serissa Stamper (Collier) (bottom left), Denver Tackett (bottom right)
The Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force announced the charges during a Wednesday news conference in Cincinnati. The defendants in the cases span at least seven states including Kentucky.
Authorities say this crackdown comes as the 60 involved are linked to 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills.
Now, some patients are shocked to find their appointments canceled, the clinic's doors locked, and their doctors in jail.
Diane Howell, one of those patients, says, "I'm glad they're cracking down on everything, the ones that need to be closed down, you know. I'm glad they're going to close them down."
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the strike force began working in December, and this is the culmination of a four-month investigation.
Three doctors, a dentist and an office assistant were charged out of the Eastern District of Kentucky.
One case involved a doctor, 44-year-old Mohammed A.H. Mazumbder of Prestonsburg, who is facing 10 charges after authorities say he unlawfully distributed controlled substances to Appalachian Primary Care patients and patients at another clinic.
Another case involved the dentist, 64-year-old Denver Tackett of McDowell, who is accused of writing prescriptions for opioids without a legitimate medical purpose, removing teeth unnecessarily, scheduling unnecessary follow-up appointments and inappropriate billing.
Another doctor, 47-year-old Scotty Akers of Pikeville, is accused of allowing his Facebook friends to come to his home to pick up prescriptions in exchange for cash. He is accused of working with his girlfriend, 32-year-old Serissa Stamper (aka Serissa Collier, in the scheme.
A solo practitioner, 60-year-old Sai Gutti of Pikeville, is accused of billing Medicare for urine testing that wasn't performed. His booking photo wasn't immediately available on jail records.
"By working together, strike force participants moved quickly and efficiently to address alleged unlawful conduct by medical professionals, who, by unnecessarily and unlawfully prescribing opioids, were furthering the opioid crisis," says Robert M. Duncan, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Even with this round of arrests and charges, federal prosecutors say the work of the strike force is far from over.
"Strike force members will continue to work in partnership, investigating and prosecuting opioid-related crime committed by medical professionals in these districts and elsewhere," said Duncan.
Federal officials say it's a step toward ending the crisis that has hit the region far too hard, and taken far too many lives.
Authorities say anyone suffering from addiction can find help by calling 833-8KY-HELP or going to findhelpnowky.org.