Federal prosecutor weighs in on doctor opioid busts, state prison problems

“If you’re a doctor acting like a drug dealer, we’re going to treat you like a drug dealer.”

Jay Town interview

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - US Attorney Jay Town is back in Huntsville after spending several days in Ohio, as part of a nationwide investigation into doctors accused of running pill mills out of their offices. As we first alerted you earlier this week, 3 Madison County doctors are among 31 around the country arrested in the sweep.

Drs. Celia LLoyd Turney, Marshall Plotka and John Cimino were arrested as part of a federal opioid investigation
Drs. Celia LLoyd Turney, Marshall Plotka and John Cimino were arrested as part of a federal opioid investigation

Town didn’t hold back when speaking with WAFF 48′s Haley Baker and Trent Butler about the arrests live on Friday’s morning newscast. “I think the message has to be from the Department of Justice loud and clear that if you’re a doctor acting like a drug dealer, we’re going to treat you like a drug dealer and we have bed space in federal prison for you." Town said. He added that investigations of this scope usually take between 18 months and several years to get to this point, but this week’s arrests came just 3 months into the case. In all, Town says his team believes the 31 doctors were responsible for 32 million pills being prescribed. “That’s more pills than there are people in the states that those doctors were residing in and practicing medicine in.”

“This particular investigation was the first of it’s kind, the largest of it’s kind.” Town said, warning other doctors who may also be over-prescribing these drugs. “This is ongoing. We have hyper-accurate data now. A pill is tracked from the moment it’s stamped out all the way to the minute it’s prescribed.”

Prison reform efforts

(Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice)

Town also wanted to talk about a recent federal report highlighting violence, understaffing and sexual assault inside Alabama’s prison system. The report ends with a threat that if the state does not change course, a federal takeover of the Alabama’s prison system is possible. If it comes to that, it’s likely that Town would be involved in the lawsuit between the Department of Justice and the state. However, he doesn’t see that happening. Town says he has faith that Governor Ivey and other state leaders have a plan to make improvements, and said there is a bit of benefit of the doubt in the DOJ right now. “These problems are inherited. These problems are systemic.” Town said. “They’ve been going on for 30, 40 years and whatever reforms we’ve take over the last decade or so, they reflected the best wisdom at the time but I think now we have more information. We need to act on that information rather than lean on what was previously our best wisdom.”

Copyright 2019 WAFF. All rights reserved.