By Independent Hearald
(The Voice received permission from Ben Garrett to reprint the following article from the Oneida (TN) Independent Herald regarding the recent guilty plea of Dr. Bruce Coffey in a prescription drug distribution case. According to www.wbir.com, the DEA stated Dr. Coffey was the main source for drug trafficking operations in multiple southeastern Kentucky counties, including McCreary County. According to the wbir site, the DEA noted Coffey prescribed more than one million addictive pills to McCreary County patients during an eight year time span. According to the DEA, the amount prescribed was enough to provide every man, woman, and child in McCreary County with 15 pills.
The Voice appreciates the Oneida Independent Herald for allowing us to reprint their article.)
KNOXVILLE — Bruce Coffey, the prominent Oneida physician who has been at the center of a long-running federal investigation into his medical practice, has pleaded guilty to distributing and dispensing controlled substances and money laundering.
The plea agreement was quietly entered in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Nov. 16, a little more than a month after Coffey was indicted on both counts by a federal grand jury. WBIR TV in Knoxville first reported the plea agreement on Friday.
Coffey has not yet been sentenced on the charges against him, but the plea agreement stipulates that the government will agree to a reduced sentence. The charges he pled guilty to carry a maximum sentence of 20 years; however, a defense attorney who reviewed the plea agreement for WBIR said Coffey could serve less than one year.
The plea agreement will effectively end the federal government’s lengthy investigation against Coffey. It is an investigation that began in eastern Kentucky, when the DEA began probing drug overdose deaths, and that came to light in Summer 2018, when a large team of federal and state law enforcement authorities descended on Coffey’s medical clinic near Ponderosa Estates in south Oneida.
That medical clinic later burned in January 2020. No cause of the fire — which also destroyed several other businesses, including Buckeye Home Medical Equipment and Mark’s Family Pharmacy — was ever determined. Coffey later reopened a medical clinic on Industrial Lane, but has since closed it and his license to practice medicine has expired.
Investigators for the DEA alleged that Coffey prescribed more than 1,600 pain pills per day over an 8-year period — nearly five million in total. The DEA’s investigation also alleged that Coffey provided pre-written prescriptions for pain pills, and that some prescriptions were given to patients while Coffey himself was not in the office — and, in fact, while he was out of state.
DEA investigators said that insurance programs paid at least $18 million to Coffey’s clinic during that six-year period.
The government’s case against Coffey, however, centered on one incident: In September 2016, when he wrote a prescription for 60 oxycodone pills to a patient that was considered to not be for a legitimate medical purpose. As for the money laundering charge, the government said that in October 2016, Coffey drew a check for more than $12,300 from one of his medical practice’s bank accounts. The government said that money was made from illicit painkiller prescriptions written by Coffey.
As a part of the plea agreement, which must be signed off on by a federal judge, prosecutors have agreed that they will not further prosecute Coffey.
For his part, Coffey acknowledged that he prescribed the oxycodone pills without a legitimate medical purpose, and outside the course of professional practice. He also admits as part of the plea deal that he knew the more than $12,000 he deposited in October 2016 was “criminally derived” money.
Coffey admitted to providing pre-written prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone and other painkillers so that his office could furnish those prescriptions to patients in exchange for payments. For the patient at the center of the court case presented by the government, it was said that Coffey spent less than one minute with the patient and conducted no physical exam before issuing the prescription.
In addition to whatever sentence the court ultimately hands down to Coffey, he also agreed not to contest the forfeiture of assets and property that were seized by the DEA during the course of the investigation. Those seizures included more than $1.3 million from his bank accounts and in cash, along with two Mercedes-Benz GL450s.