Pharmacist Convicted for Conspiring to Unlawfully Dispense Over 100,000 Opioid Pills
Houston, TX. – A federal jury in Houston convicted a Texas pharmacist yesterday for her role in a pill-mill pharmacy that unlawfully dispensed over 100,000 opioid pills in exchange for cash.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, from January 2014 to January 2018, Deanna Winfield-Gates, 54, of Houston, was a relief pharmacist at Health Fit Pharmacy (Health Fit), a cash-only, pill-mill pharmacy. Health Fit dispensed controlled substances to drug traffickers in exchange for hundreds of dollars, often based on prescriptions that were fraudulent and issued in the names of physicians whose identities were stolen. Winfield-Gates filled large volumes of cookie-cutter prescriptions for the opioids hydrocodone 10-325mg and oxycodone 30mg and for carisoprodol, alprazolam, and promethazine with codeine, often in combination, knowing these controlled substances were likely to be diverted or abused.
The jury convicted Winfield-Gates of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 11, 2024, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Winfield-Gates was the last-remaining defendant charged in this case. Three co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to the conspiracy.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas, and Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Houston Field Division made the announcement.
The DEA investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Drew Pennebaker and Courtney Chester of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s efforts to combat health care fraud through the Health Care Fraud Strike Force Program. Since March 2007, this program, comprised of 15 strike forces operating in 25 federal districts, has charged more than 5,000 defendants who collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $24 billion. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, are taking steps to hold providers accountable for their involvement in health care fraud schemes. More information can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/health-care-fraud-unit.