Lenoir City police chief says alleged pill mill led to more crime in community

Comprehensive Healthcare Clinic in Lenoir City

LENOIR CITY (WATE) – Four more defendants were in federal court Wednesday accused of being involved in a giant pill mill operation. Prosecutors say the operation brought in more than $17 million dollars. The FBI raided three alleged pill mills last week. Two were in Knoxville and one in Lenoir City.

Rebecca Phillips, Douglas Sapp, Jockaree Phillips and Heather Alred were in federal court Wednesday. Sapp was released on the condition he would stay clean and report to court. Rebecca Phillips and Heather Alred were arraigned. Alred will have a detention hearing Monday.

Previous story: Knoxville woman, multiple others indicted in pill mill operation

Prosecutors claim the now-closed clinic in Lenoir City is linked to seven fatal overdoses. Some surrounding business owners say they are glad to see the clinic closed because it has been problematic for years. The police chief says the clinic brought more criminal activity into the community. He says he had to call in federal authorities for help.

Jackson Millard owns Smoky Mountain Window Tinting, which is next to Comprehensive Healthcare Clinic in Lenoir City. He says ever since it’s opened, it has been a problem.

“People come up and get dropped off in our parking lot all the time. They’d walk over and people would sit. We had to run people out of our parking lot for sitting because we didn’t really know what they were doing. It was really odd,” said Millard.

Lenoir City Police Chief Don White
Lenoir City Police Chief Don White

Millard said it didn’t operate like a legitimate doctor’s office and had a security guard.

“Never heard about a doctor’s office with a security guard before. That was a first,” said Millard.

Lenoir City Police Chief Don White says his office received numerous complaints about the pain clinic from parking on private property to impaired driving. Some pharmacies even called law enforcement because they couldn’t cope with the large influx of people waiting on their prescription to get filled.

Chief White had to reach out for help.

“Trying to deal with the traffic issues, the impaired driving. Immediately notified the federal authorities to see if we could get some help from the FBI,” said Chief White.

Chief White says the clinic would draw a large crowd daily, and many of the patients came from 60 to 70 miles away.

“No one could ever explain to me why somebody with chronic pain back pain normally would drive from Scott County to Lenoir City to get their pain medication,” said Chief White.

Chief White says in the past five years, they’ve had about 10 fatal overdoses all from prescription pills, specifically oxycodone. Court testimony from federal agents linked prescriptions from the Lenoir City clinic to seven fatal overdoses.

Business owner Jackson Millard hopes the “temporarily closed” sign is incorrect.

“Hopefully it’s gone and a better business goes in there,” said Millard.

White says he wants anyone who engages in a pill mill operation in his city to know he will contact federal authorities and have anyone involved prosecuted in federal court.

Rebecca Phillips, Douglas Sapp, Jockaree Phillips and Heather Alred were in federal court Wednesday accused of being involved in the pill mill scheme. Sapp was released on the condition he would stay clean and report to court. Rebecca Phillips and Heather Alred were arraigned. Alred will have a detention hearing Monday.

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