A Surry County resident who worked as a counselor for pain management clinics in Virginia was sentenced to an active prison term in federal court for illegally distributing prescription drugs to patients.
Charles Wilson Adams Jr. of Dobson was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday, Brian P. McGinn, public affairs specialist for the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, confirmed Monday.
In July 2021, Adams, then 50, had pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to distribute Schedule II opioids and Suboxone using medically improper prescriptions while serving as a consultant for L5 Medical Holdings at the sites Woodlawn, Christiansburg and Lynchburg in Virginia.
L5 Medical Holdings has been described as a company specializing in pain management and opioid addiction treatment.
The Dobson man was employed there as a counselor from 2014 to 2020, but had not applied to the Virginia Board of Counseling to become a certified substance abuse counselor, according to earlier information from the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District.
Adams was also referred to as “Dr.” within L5 Medical Holdings. although he was never a doctor or licensed to prescribe controlled substances, he adds.
Still, the former adviser has admitted that he and other non-medical professionals exercised influence or control over medical decisions and patient treatment, including the prescription of Schedule II pain relievers and Suboxone. The latter is a Schedule III drug used to relieve opioid addiction, which is potentially dangerous if not used as directed.
Three of the patients to whom Adams illegally distributed prescription drugs are reported to have suffered fatal overdoses, including one who passed out in the Lynchburg Clinic waiting room and was hospitalized. That person later died of an overdose of fentanyl and oxycodone, according to Virginia media reports.
Adams was not directly charged with the overdose deaths of the three patients. He specifically pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiring to distribute Suboxone; conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone and fentanyl; and the conspiracy to use someone else’s registration number with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the course of controlled substance distribution.
Still, he was aware of the company’s practices and their illegality, and he nonetheless participated, federal officials said. Staffers reportedly prescribed painkillers without authorization, often even after becoming aware that patients were showing “red flags” of substance abuse. These include failed drug tests and inadequate medical records.
“Adams chose to use his position to help illegally distribute strong opioids rather than use them for legitimate medical purposes, thereby causing additional harm to the community,” then-acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar said in a statement to the local man at the time pleaded guilty.
Agencies involved in an investigation that led to the charges against him included the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Department of Health and Human Services. The Mount Airy Police Department is listed as a support along with the Carroll County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office and others.
Presented mitigating factors
While he pleaded guilty to the federal charges during a hearing in US District Court in Abingdon more than a year ago, Adams was convicted just last Friday.
That was originally set for October 2021 to reportedly give a federal district judge time to determine the sentence after considering US sentencing guidelines and other legal factors after Adams pleaded guilty in July of this year.
Sentencing was further delayed until recently, apparently because of Adams’ support of prosecutors in ongoing investigative efforts, which also resulted in him receiving a reduced sentence.
McGinn, the US Attorney’s public affairs specialist, was unable to provide details Monday about other mitigating factors, including testimonies from Adams’ attorney Christopher Clifton of Winston-Salem and his wife Stacie Adams.
However, media reports from Virginia state that Clifton cited his client’s full admission of what he did, Adams’ lack of a criminal record, mental health issues on his part, and Adams’ prompt payment of a $5,000 fine.
It was also reported that Stacie Adams wrote a letter to US District Judge James Jones saying her husband was a caring professional who was trying to help people who had been rejected by others and from relapsing or committing suicide were threatened instead of abandoning them.
She is also said to have written that any negligence on Adams’ part was due to his failure to realize that he could not bring about positive change in the clinic environment and that he remained in a system that media reports were gravitating towards move in the wrong direction.
Tom Joyce can be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.