A Surry County resident who worked as a counselor for pain-management clinics in Virginia has received an active prison term in federal court for illegally distributing prescription medications to patients.
Charles Wilson Adams Jr. of Dobson was sentenced Friday to two years, Brian P. McGinn, public affairs specialist for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, confirmed Monday.
In July 2021, Adams, then 50, had pleaded guilty to federal charges that he conspired to distribute Schedule II opioids and Suboxone using medically illegitimate prescriptions while employed as a counselor for L5 Medical Holdings at Woodlawn, Christiansburg and Lynchburg locations in Virginia.
L5 Medical Holdings has been described as an entity specializing in pain management and opioid addiction treatment.
The Dobson man was employed as counselor there from 2014 to 2020, but hadn’t applied to the Virginia Board of Counseling to become a certified substance abuse counselor, according to previous information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District.
Adams also was referred to inside L5 Medical Holdings as “Dr.” despite never having been a medical practitioner or possessing authority to prescribe controlled substances, it adds.
Still, the former counselor has admitted that he and other non-medical professionals exerted influence or control over medical decisions and treatment of patients, including the prescribing of Schedule II pain medications and Suboxone. The latter is a Schedule III drug used to relieve opioid addiction, which is potentially dangerous if not used as prescribed.
Three of the patients to whom Adams illegally distributed prescription medication are said to have suffered fatal overdoses, including one who passed out in the waiting room of the Lynchburg clinic and was hospitalized. That person later died from an overdose of fentanyl and oxycodone, according to media reports from Virginia.
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; conspiring to distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone and fentanyl; and conspiring to use, in the course of the distribution of controlled substances, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration number of another person.
Yet he was aware of the company’s practices and their illegitimacy and took part in them anyway, federal officials have said. Staff members reportedly prescribed painkillers without authorization, often even after becoming aware that patients were exhibiting “red flags” for drug abuse. Those are said to have included failing drug tests and providing inadequate medical records.
“Adams chose to use his position to assist in the illegal distribution of powerful opioids rather than their use for legitimate medical purposes, thus causing additional harm to the community,” then-Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar said in a statement at the time the local man pleaded guilty.
Agencies involved in an investigation that resulted in the charges against him included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Department of Health and Human Services. The Mount Airy Police Department also is listed as providing assistance along with the Carroll County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office and others.
Mitigating factors presented
While he had pleaded guilty to the federal charges more than a year ago during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Adams was not sentenced until last Friday.
That originally was set for October 2021, ostensibly allowing time for a federal district court judge to determine punishment after considering U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors after Adams pleaded guilty in July of that year.
Sentencing was further delayed until just recently, apparently because of Adams’ assistance to prosecutors in ongoing investigative efforts which also led to his receiving of a reduced sentence.
McGinn, the public affairs specialist for the U.S. attorney’s office, was unable Monday to provide details regarding other mitigating factors, including statements from both 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 to what he did, Adams’ lack of a prior criminal record, mental health issues on his part and Adams’ immediate payment of a $5,000 fine.
It also was reported that Stacie Adams wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge James Jones saying her husband was a caring professional who tried to help persons who’d been cast aside by others and were in danger of relapse or suicide, rather than abandon them.
She also is said to have written that any negligence on Adams’ part resulted from failing to recognize he couldn’t bring positive change within the clinics’ environment and remaining in a system heading in the wrong direction, based on media accounts.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.