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Martinsville-based doctor facing life for running pill mill that resulted in death

Joel Smithers

ABINGDON – A Martinsville-based doctor was found guilty Thursday of 861 federal drug charges at the conclusion of a nine-day jury trial in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced in a press release.

The jury convicted Joel Smithers, 36, after seven hours of deliberation, on one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of illegally distributing controlled substances, one count of possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances, and 859 counts of illegally prescribing Schedule II controlled substances. 

The jury also found that the oxycodone and oxymorphone Smithers prescribed to a woman from West Virginia caused her death.

“This defendant not only violated his Hippocratic Oath to his patients, but he perpetuated, on a massive scale, the vicious cycle of addiction, despair, and destruction,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated. “We have no higher priority than investigating drug-dealing physicians and other corrupt health-care practitioners and putting them in federal prison.” 

Evidence presented at trial showed Smithers opened an office in Martinsville in August 2015, and prescribed controlled substances to every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed. 

The drugs involved included oxymorphone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and fentanyl. 

A majority of those receiving prescriptions from Smithers traveled hundreds of miles, one-way, to receive the drugs.

Smithers did not accept insurance and took in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments prior to a search warrant being executed at his office on March 7, 2017.

United States District Court Judge James P. Jones ordered Smithers taken into custody pending sentencing.   

Smithers faces a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for a term of twenty years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. He also faces a maximum fine of more than $200 million dollars. 

Sentencing is scheduled for August 16 in Abingdon.

The case was investigated by the Roanoke offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad and the Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General. 

Task force officers with the police departments of Bristol, Martinsville, Buena Vista, Roanoke, and Roanoke County; the Sheriff’s Offices of Henry County and Pittsylvania County; and the Virginia State Police assisted in the investigation.

Assistant United States Attorneys Cagle Juhan, Randy Ramseyer and Zachary T. Lee prosecuted the case for the United States.

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Dana Reese
Dana Reese
May 12, 2019

This epidemic has so many layers, if there is any hope to stop it, it's going to require attacking from all sides...adequate

treatment for addicts, effective prosecution of dealers,supportive services for the innocent children who's parents are unable to care for them and for those who step up to do the job, and major changes and restrictions on what big pharma gets away with. None of that can happen until everyone in this country is working toward the same goal.


Maureen Mulroy Kielian
Maureen Mulroy Kielian
May 12, 2019

I great job, but I sure hope when the DEA busts physicians they are directing the patients to legitimate addiction and narcitic dependeency treatment. Otherwise, this does nothing to curb the morbidity and mortality of this public health emergency.

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