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Martinsville-based doctor subject of federal drug investigation
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Martinsville-based doctor subject of federal drug investigation

Search warrants filed by federal DEA investigators detail a deep examination of opioids prescribed by Dr. Vincent K. Jones from his practice in Collinsville.

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Federal search warrants issued in July allege that there is probable cause to believe that Dr. Vincent K. Jones, an internist from Martinsville, has been illegally distributing controlled substances from his family practice in Collinsville.

The warrants say Jones and others are using his Community Family Care to distribute Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances (namely oxycodone and hydrocodone-acetaminophen and possibly others) and to commit health care fraud and wire fraud in violation of federal law.

Searches were conducted last month at Community Family Care, which is located at 1856 Virginia Ave. in Holiday Shopping Center in Collinsville, and at Jones’ primary residence at 1308 Cardinal Lane in Martinsville.

Search warrants only describe the investigative process. Jones has not been charged with any crimes, and investigators won’t speak about their work. But the documents provide keen insights into information gathered from informants and other sources of documentation they have sought.

Anita Sowers, task force officer with the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration’s Roanoke Tactical Diversion Squad in Roanoke, filed the applications for search warrants.

Sowers was deputized as a task force officer with the DEA in January 2017 and had been employed with the city of Martinsville in 1997, serving as a corrections deputy until 2000 when she became a police officer for the city of Martinsville.

The documents don’t specify when the investigation began, but they refer to a tip received about two years ago from a confidential informant of the Martinsville Police Department.

And the executed searches, Sowers wrote, are based on interviews with several confidential informants who described how Jones transacted prescription drugs outside his office, dispensing them to at least one person he had not examined and how he exchanged medications for sex.

The documents also state that drugs Jones is alleged to have prescribed were distributed by others, who were arrested in both Martinsville and Henry County and indicted by grand juries.

The documents also state that there are hundreds of prescriptions that Jones is alleged to have authorized that were issued in Virginia to three to five employees of Community Family Care and account for nearly 45,000 doses.

Jones earlier this year was prohibited by the Virginia Board of Medicine from writing prescriptions for Schedule II and III narcotics, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

An officer for the DEA referred a call seeking comment to a DEA public information officer, who has not yet responded to requests for information.

Brian McGinn, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, wrote in an email: “There isn’t anything we can comment on in regards to the search warrants and there is nothing more to comment on at this time.”

Jones was contacted on Thursday at his home in Martinsville and again outside his office on Friday but said he would not comment. He also declined to say who is representing him in this matter.

This investigation is being conducted by the same office that earlier this year helped to convict another doctor from Martinsville, Joel Smithers, of writing hundreds of illegal prescriptions for controlled substances accounting for more than a half-million illegal narcotics being distributed. Smithers is facing 20 years to life in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

The search warrants

The search warrants identify Jones as being a registered practitioner with the DEA who has the authority “to include prescribe, order, and/or administer, controlled substances in Schedules 2, 2N, 3, 3N, 4 and 5 under [a certain DEA registration number] issued Dec. 7, 1998, with an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2019.”

On May 6, 2018, Jones received a waiver to treat a maximum of 30 patients at one time for maintenance and detoxification treatment of opioid addiction in accordance with the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000.

The documents allege that there is probable cause to believe that certain financial accounts held by Jones and Community Family Care “contain funds that have been derived from illegal activity and are all subject to seizure and forfeiture.”

The documents list a BB&T business checking account in the name of Community Family Care; and a BB&T banking account, BB&T personal money rate savings account and BB&T personal regular savings account in the name of Vincent K. Jones.

Search inventories indicate that evidence seized included:

  • From Community Family Care: computer equipment (including laptops, computer monitor, desktop PC), phone message book, patient schedules, pharmacy correspondence, patient correspondence, patient workup sheets, lab requests, a list of non-compliant patients, drug test literature, prescription documents, patient appointments, dictation tapes, CDs, scales, charts, and other items.
  • From Jones’ home: prescription pads, computer equipment (including laptops and desktop computers), iPhone, bags containing green leafy substance, patient files, visit sheets, Department of Health Professions information and DHP complaints, prescription pads, other prescription documents and records, patient visit sheets, and other documents.

Confidential sources

The search warrants allege that at an interview at the Martinsville Police Department on March 14, a person identified as “Confidential Source 3” told Sowers and Human and Health Services Special Agent Robert Slease that CS3 “had been a patient of Jones since 2014 and was being treated for high blood pressure, leg pain related to knee surgery and a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and back pain from a fall. CS3 stated Jones prescribes him/her high blood pressure and cholesterol medication as well as Xanax and oxycodone every month.

“CS3 stated that he/she has met Jones on the street to obtain his/her prescriptions when CS3 did not have money to pay for an office visit or when he/she did not have transportation. CS3 stated that Jones would present prescriptions for oxycodone and Xanax out of the window of Jones’ vehicle to CS3. CS3 stated on another occasion he/she went to Jones’ residence to obtain prescriptions for oxycodone and Xanax.

“CS3 stated that Jones had provided a prescription for oxycodone-acetaminophen 5/325 for CS3’s daughter AK. CS3 stated that AK was not a patient of Jones and had not been examined by Jones.

“CS3 admitted to having a sexual relationship with Jones. CS3 stated the sexual relationship started in or around 2014 and that the encounters occur at Jones’ residence. CS3 stated that Jones would send CS3 text messages when Jones wanted to meet.”

On March 14, DEA investigators interviewed the person identified as “AK” at the Martinsville Police Department regarding a prescription of oxycodone-acetaminophen alleged to have been written to AK by Jones on May 15, 2018.

“According to AK, he/she had no knowledge of the prescription. AK stated that he/she is not a patient of Jones and has never met Jones. AK stated that his/her mother was a patient of Jones and has been for a few years. AK stated his/her mother is seen monthly by Jones and is prescribed medication.“

Another patient of Jones, identified in the documents as “PTH” told DEA investigators in an interview on March 14 at the Martinsville Police Department that he/she became Jones’ patient in about 2017 when he prescribed 5 milligrams of oxycodone.

PTH said “she” knew about the confidential informant and about the sexual relationship CS3 had with Jones. She described how the informant would meet Jones for sex to get prescriptions.

Drugs traced elsewhere

Sowers stated in the search warrants that through the course of the investigation, she learned that several patients of Jones were alleged to have been distributing pharmaceuticals prescribed to them by Jones, and that further investigations by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and the Martinsville Police Department resulted in controlled purchases of narcotics from several patients of Jones.

These people later were “direct indicted” by grand juries in Henry County and Martinsville Circuit Courts (not going through General District Courts) and were arrested.

The search warrants allege eight patients of Jones were arrested on charges of unlawfully distributing pills obtained via prescriptions that Jones wrote. The search warrants identify those eight patients by initials: CSM, KL, SC, JF, MHS, GH, OT, MS.

After Jones’ patient MHS was arrested, he/she told investigators that he/she provided a urine sample for drug screening every three months and that on two occasions, he/she had provided a urine sample that did not contain trace of the medication that MHS was prescribed.

Sowers wrote in the documents that she believes the absence of prescribed medication in a urine sample is significant because it can indicate that the patient is taking the medication too quickly or is diverting (or selling) some of the pills prescribed.

“MHS and other patients of Jones did claim that their prescription medication is a necessity to managing their pain,” the search warrants note.

MHS told investigators that Jones advised MHS that he/she “better have the medication in his system on the following drug screen. MHS stated that Jones did not mention nor was any action taken following the two failed drug screens,” according to the search warrants.

Urine drug tests commonly are used in pain medicine practice to determine if a patient is taking illicit drugs or diverting the drugs prescribed, the warrants stated.

Investigators also interviewed defendant GH, who “stated that Jones administers drug screenings about every three months. GH said he/she is unaware if he/she had ever failed a drug screen but said one time in 2017, he/she ‘didn’t have enough in (him/her),’” according to search warrants.

In another interview defendant “OT” told investigators that he/she had been a patient of Jones for about four years and was being treated for pain from kidney stones and that “he/she heard about Jones on the street and that Jones has a reputation of being a physician who will prescribe ‘whatever you need.’”

OT told investigators that Jones has a number of patients who are able to walk directly into the back office area and obtain a prescription, the documents explained. OT told investigators that most visits were for approximately five minutes. OT also stated that Jones has posted signs in the office stating that patients should not come to Jones’ house.

“OT stated that he/she had direct knowledge that CS3 has received prescriptions from Jones on days that the office was not open,” the search warrants allege.

Prior directives

The search warrants allege that in a series of investigations dating back to 2007, the Virginia Board of Medicine at least twice ordered Jones to undergo continuing education related to the prescribing of opioids.

“Nonetheless, a review by the Department of Health Professions [DHP] of his patient records show inconsistent and inadequate patient visits, and effective May 1, 2019, Jones was prohibited from prescribing Schedule II or III controlled substances, and prohibited from supervising any prescriber of such substances by the Virginia Board of Medicine,” the warrants state.

In August 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a safety announcement about serious risks and death when combining opioid pain or cough medicine with benzodiazepines.

Sowers notes in the documents that opioids and benzodiazepines are desirable drugs of choice for illegitimate recreational use and are a commodity in the illicit market.

Prescriptions written

Investigators examined raw prescription data for controlled substances filled in Virginia between January 2014 to January 2019 by employees of Jones’ that indicate approximately 449 controlled-substance prescriptions were issued or authorized by Jones and given to three of the five presumed employees of Community Family Care.

This amounted, the documents said, to approximately 44,850 dosage units.

The documents explained how that is alleged to have worked:

  • “Employee 1 received 247 prescriptions accounting for 21,910 dosage units, 138 being opioid prescriptions accounting for 13,849 dosage units, and 54 times a combination of an opioid and benzodiazepine was prescribed.”
  • “Employee 2 received 74 prescriptions accounting for 7,140 dosage units, 42 being opioid prescriptions accounting for 6,180 dosage units.”
  • “Employee 3 received 128 prescriptions accounting for 15,800 dosage units, 67 being opioid prescriptions accounting for 9,440 dosage units, and 56 times a combination of an opioid and benzodiazepine was prescribed.”

Inside the practice

On Aug. 31, 2017, investigators spoke with a person described as a “Source of Information” (or SOI1), who is described to have spent about five weeks working at Community Family Care as an intern between June and July of 2017.

“SOI1 recalled that some patients never saw Jones at all – the patients would ask if they were going to see Jones as SOI1 was handing them their prescriptions at the end of the appointment,” the documents state. “SOI1 further stated that he/she observed a lot of cash at CFC and that every patient paid $70 in cash whether they had insurance or not. The SOI1 recollected several instances where patients complained that they were charged multiple times for the same visit.”

SOI1 told investigators about several occasions when Jones provided a prescription to patients when the SOI1 believed the patient should not have been given one.

“SOI1 stated on one occasion a patient appeared to be intoxicated to the point that they were unable to stand up and needed assistance to their seat in the waiting room,” the warrant stated. “The patient left CFC with a prescription for pain medication written by Jones.”

The sources of information told investigators that Jones did not give prescriptions to every single patient — that some patients left Jones’ clinic without prescriptions.

SOI1 described a patient who was given a drug screen, which subsequently was positive for cocaine.

“SOI1 stated that he/she observed Jones give directions to throw the test out and Jones then proceeded to give the patient a prescription for pain medication. The SOII stated that Jones often skipped scheduled drug screening of patients,” the search warrants allege.

SOI1 also told investigators that Jones was worried about patient “JS,” who had died about four days after his last visit. SOI1 stated that Jones had opted not to give JS a drug screen on his last appointment before his death, the search warrants allege.

“Even though he sometimes failed to give drug screens, the SOI1 stated that Jones would have every patient that smoked go through a ‘spirometry’ [breathing] test because Jones made more from Medicare when Jones could bill for the test,” the search warrants allege.

Another informant, identified in documents as CS2, met with investigators on May 30, 2018, and described how the patients were processed at Community Family Care.

CS2 said that appointments would be scheduled at 8 a.m. but that Jones wouldn’t arrive until approximately 10 a.m. By that time there were about 20 patients. CS2 said an employee would call patients into an exam room. That employee would take blood pressure before Jones came in.

“CS2 stated that Jones will come in the exam room and ask if a prescription is needed. CS2 stated that Jones never asks about the patient’s medical condition. CS2 stated that he/she has seen patient files in the office but has not seen Jones bring patient files into an exam room with him,” the search warrants allege.

Tip in Martinsville

Beginning in or about August 2017, federal investigators received information from Lt. Richard Barrow of the Martinsville Police Department Special Investigation Unit stating that a confidential informant for that unit allegedly was able to purchase illegally on the street Schedule II controlled pain medication from an employee of Community Family Care.

The documents name a specific employee of the practice, but the records are unclear what that person’s role is and why that specific employee is the only one named. Neither Jones nor someone who answered the locked door of the practice on Friday would address that employee’s role. Messages left by the Bulletin seeking comment from that employee drew no response.

According to this confidential informant, that employee “acts as a sponsor by paying for patients’ appointments in exchange for the patient supplying that employee with a portion of the patient’s prescription,” the search warrants allege.

The Martinsville Police Department’s confidential informant “stated that if a patient was worried about passing a urine drug test, [the employee mentioned above] would tell Jones to bypass the drug screen,” the search warrants allege.

The introduction to the search warrants allege, in part: “There is probable cause … to believe that Vincent K. Jones, MD, and [others known and yet known] are operating businesses and/or managing bank accounts in furtherance of a conspiracy to distribute Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances (namely oxycodone and hydrocodone-acetaminophen and possibly others)….”

It’s a federal case

Community Family Care was closed Thursday morning when a Martinsville Bulletin reporter stopped by there. At one point, James Crews of Fieldale, a longtime patient, stopped by and looked in the window of the locked front door. He said he had come by because he had an appointment.

“I want to know what’s going on,” Crews said, referring to the office being closed.

Crews called the office phone number on his cell phone while he was standing there. Crews said Dr. Jones’ son answered and told him the office would be open the next day (Friday). An employee on Friday told the Bulletin that the office routinely closes when no patients are scheduled.

A Bulletin reporter drove to Jones’ house Thursday after leaving the site of Community Family Care. Jones came to the door of his home and the reporter told him that he wanted to give Jones an opportunity to tell his side. Jones asked if this could be done at another time and he took the reporter’s contact information.

On Friday, Jones was locking the door and departing his office shortly after noon when a Bulletin reporter asked him questions. He declined to provide answers.

Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady declined to comment about the investigation, saying, “I cannot comment on a federal case,” although he conceded that he is not legally prohibited from discussing matters involving his department.

He referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Roanoke and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney Andy Hall has not responded to a request for comment.

Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.

Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.

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