COLUMBUS, Ohio – Pill mill owner Nancy Sadler had so little regard for the law that she boosted painkiller sales when she needed a new car, gambled away clinic profits at casinos and burned clinic records when a search warrant was imminent, the government alleges.
Sadler’s husband, Lester, who co-owned the clinic, enforced a rule that the clinic see at least 40 cash-only patients a day, got his elderly father involved in a prescription forging scheme and joined his wife in burning records, according to the government.
Both face long prison terms when they appear this week before federal judge Sandra Beckwith in Cincinnati.
Investigators say Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly sold illegal painkiller prescriptions in and around southern Ohio, the epicenter of a drug addiction crisis. Drug overdose deaths have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio and several other states.
More than a year after the Sadlers were indicted in 2010, prosecutors alleged in a new filing that the couple was running a second clinic in Columbus and using profits they hid from the government to take extensive gambling and shopping trips.
One patient died of an overdose days after obtaining pills from the Columbus clinic, according to the government. Beckwith then tightened the couple’s bond requirements and banned them from visiting casinos.
Clinic employees had strict orders to set up enough appointments to fill 30 to 40 prescriptions of powerful painkillers a day at $125 a visit, a 2010 indictment alleged. Workers who met the quota would receive a week’s pay for three or four days’ work, according to the government. Those who slipped up got less, the 2010 indictment says.
Some customers traveled more than 200 miles round trip for treatment, the government said.
The indictment also alleges clinic operators and employees used the federal prescription-writing certificate issued to the clinic’s physician, Dr. Brenda Banks, to order more than 200,000 painkillers, mainly hydrocodone.
The Sadlers would then keep the pills for themselves or resale to local drug dealers, the indictment said.
In April, Banks, who is no longer licensed to practice medicine in Ohio, pleaded guilty to one count of acquiring or possessing a controlled substance by deception. She is scheduled for sentencing Wednesday. Prosecutors are asking for a four-year sentence.
Prosecutors have recommended a 12 1/2-year sentence for Lester Sadler, whose sentencing is Monday.
“Lester Sadler was a full partner and participant in the crime, the proceeds, and the gambling,” prosecutors said in a November filing.
In seeking a lesser sentence, his attorneys argue that Sadler had a clean record until this conviction, was not often at the clinic, suffers from alcoholism and has health problems related to severe obesity.
Nancy Sadler faces a 17 1/2-year sentence when she goes before the judge Tuesday.
“Nancy Sadler’s history shows that she is completely unconcerned with the law or the damage that her pills caused,” prosecutors said in a November filing.
They note that under a previous pill mill conviction in Kentucky she shouldn’t have been operating the Ohio clinic.
Her attorney said in a filing that she deserves a lower sentence because other people, like Banks, bear more responsibility.
“Although she opened the clinic with good intentions, it ultimately became a place where drug seekers were serviced by doctors like Banks,” her attorney wrote.
Attorneys for the Sadlers and Banks weren’t commenting before the sentencing.
Two employees and relatives of the Sadlers received light sentences last week.
On Nov. 26, Beckwith sentenced Lester Sadler’s 82-year-old father, James, to one day in prison for his role as what’s known as a clinic runner, in which he allegedly took painkiller prescriptions to a pharmacy knowing that some of them had been faked. The judge sentenced Nancy Sadler’s sister, Lisa Clevenger, to two years of probation, with the first eight months to be served in home confinement.