According to the Department of Justice, Denise Huffman, 54, of Portsmouth, managed the Tri-State Health Care and Pain Management, and South Point Pain Management clinics; and Alice Huffman Ball, 32, of Portsmouth, managed Tri-State Dispensary Center.
With them, Dr. Paul Volkman, 60, of Chicago, Ill., also was indicted, representing himself as a chronic pain management doctor.
The indictment claims Huffman operated the clinics and charged customers between $125 and $200 cash per visit to see a doctor. Patients would be examined briefly by a physician and then receive a prescription for pain medication.
The indictment also seeks forfeiture of more than $3 million, representing proceeds from the crimes.
Gregory Lockhart, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, announced the indictments Tuesday along with representatives from 15 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Michigan.
“An indictment is merely an accusation,” the DOJ stated in a news release. “The burden of proof is on the government to show that the defendant actually committed the crimes with which he is charged.”
The 22-count indictment alleges at least nine people died as a result of drugs they received from the clinics, and five others died of drugs received from Volkman.
The charges are punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, and if convicted, defendants also could face life sentences if a death is proven in connection with the crimes.
“When I testified for the grand jury as a member of the drug task force, I advised the grand juries that the No. 1 problem we have in Scioto County, as well as probably most of the United States, is pharmaceutical drugs,” said Portsmouth Police Chief Charles Horner. “Unfortunately, we have physicians that have decided the value of their practices were worth gambling away for money.”
Horner said a majority of drug shops, or “pill mills,” are set up in Kentucky, outside the jurisdiction. Locally, the city has dealt with Dr. John Lilly, who was indicted in the Scioto County Prosecutor's Office, and Dr. Volkman's case, which was consolidated into a federal case by the district attorney.
“Doctor cases and pill mill cases are probably the most difficult cases to investigate and prosecute, and with that complexity, they are very long investigations. Although it may not be perceived that law enforcement is doing anything, in reality, behind the scenes we are doing quite a bit of work,” Horner said.
Huffman, Ball and Volkman will receive an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. U.S. District Chief Judge Sandra Beckwith will preside over the case.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.