Former Oneida physician, Bruce Coffey, gets sentence of 40 months
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | Dr. Bruce Coffey, the prominent Oneida physician at the center of an extensive investigation into the distribution of painkillers, has been sentenced to three years and four months in prison.
Coffey, who was indicted last October, will serve a 40-month sentence in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, after which he will serve one year of supervised probation. He was also fined $500,000.
That judgment was handed down in U.S. District Court in Knoxville Monday morning by Judge Katherine A. Crytzer. The court recommended that Coffey’s sentence be served at a federal prison in either Lexington, Ky. or Manchester, Ky. He was released until his assignment to the BOP.
Finally, the court recommended that Coffey undergo 500 hours of substance abuse treatment.
Coffey was indicted in October 2021 on charges of distributing and dispensing controlled substances and money laundering. Specifically, the federal government alleged that Coffey illegally distributed oxycodone pills, and laundered more than $12,000 through a bank account of his practice, Coffey Family Medical Clinic.
Coffey signaled an intent to plead guilty last November. That plea was accepted by a federal judge in April.
The indictment against Coffey centered on just 60 oxycodone pills. The investigation, which splashed into the headlines in the summer of 2018 when state and federal authorities conducted a massive raid at Coffey’s medical clinic on Underpass Drive in south Oneida, had accused Coffey of distributing millions of pain pills at a rate of more than 1,500 per day — a total of 4.9 million over an eight-year period.
While the charges against Coffey carried a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, it had been assumed that he would receive a much lighter sentence, in part because of his guilty plea. That revelation drew outrage from some, including McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters, who told Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR-TV that Coffey should have received a 20-year sentence.
It was in Kentucky that the investigation centered. While Coffey’s medical practice was located in Oneida, many of his patients were from McCreary County and surrounding Kentucky counties. It was the DEA’s regional office in Southeastern Kentucky that spearheaded the investigation.
Congressman Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, also called for a harsher sentence, calling Coffey a “dirtbag” and saying that the court should “lock him up and throw away the key.”
Coffey is no longer in the medical practice. His Underpass Drive clinic burned in January 2020 — a fire that claimed several other businesses in the small medical complex. While Coffey relocated his practice to Industrial Lane, it closed for good in July 2020, and Coffey’s medical license expired in October 2021.
In addition to alleging that Coffey had prescribed nearly five million opioid pills over an eight-year period, investigators said that Coffey had pre-written prescriptions for pain pills that could be given to patients while he was not in the office. Specifically, investigators cited an instance where a patient was prescribed pain pills by Coffey while the doctor was out of state. The DEA said that insurance programs had paid at least $18 million to Coffey’s clinic during a period of six years.
Ultimately, the government’s case against Coffey centered on a single incident: When he wrote a prescription for 60 oxycodone pills to a patient in September 2016.
As part of the plea agreement, Coffey acknowledged that he prescribed the oxycodone pills in question without a legitimate medical purpose, and outside the course of professional practice. He also admitted 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.