Maryville Doctor Charged in Federal Opioid Investigation
A Maryville doctor with a specialty in treating opioid addiction has been indicted by a federal grand jury for helping to illegally distribute controlled substances, according to federal documents released Wednesday.
Charles Brooks Jr., 61, West Hunt Road, Maryville, was indicted April 2 on one count of conspiracy to distribute Schedule III, IV and V drugs as well as one count of health care fraud for aiding and abetting a false statement related to health care matters.
This case was investigated by the FBI and Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.
Brooks worked with Michael LaPaglia, a doctor in Knoxville, to prescribe the controlled substances through a mobile practice called L & B Healthcare, according to state documents from the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, which suspended Brooks’ license in January.
The practice provided medically assisted treatment for patients with opioid disorders, which they recruited from practices where they had previously worked.
LaPaglia would see patients at his home or at their residence, according to the state medical board documents. Additionally, he would sometimes see patients in the parking lots of other businesses, including a McDonald’s.
Patients would pay LaPaglia $300 monthly. Out of that, Brooks would receive $150.
Brooks would provide blank or pre-signed prescriptions to LaPaglia, who has been barred from prescribing serious medications since 2014, when he was caught with dozens of jars of marijuana and a large number of prescription pills, including OxyCodone, in his home, according to previous reporting from the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The drugs Brooks helped LaPaglia illegally prescribe include buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, clonazepam, also known as Klonopin, diazepam and pregabalin, also known as Lyrica.
Buprenorphine is used in medication-assisted treatment of opioid disorder as a substitute for more potent opioids, such as heroin, but the drug has the potential to be abused as well.
Brooks was issued his medical license in 1985, having studied at the University of South Florida and at the University of Tennesse Medical Center, from which he graduated in 1987.
His license was already on probation following a 2012 incident, during which he admitted having a sexual relationship with a former patient he was prescribing controlled substances to.
Brooks’ indictment was announced Wednesday by the Department of Justice, as part of the 60 individuals nationwide charged by the department’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force since it was launched in December.
LaPaglia already pleaded guilty to two federal felonies related to the practice in November.
In the Eastern District of Tennessee, a total of eight individuals, including five doctors, a nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant and an office manager were charged in four cases. Four doctors, a nurse practitioner and a physician’s assistant, were charged with the unlawful distribution of opioids. Two doctors, including Brooks, were charged with health care fraud violations. Three of these cases relate to alleged pill mill operations in the Eastern District of Tennessee.
“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr said. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis.”