MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Consolidated Health Services on Hacks Cross hasn’t been open for months, but Elizabeth Hardin can remember when lines of people regularly stretched across the parking lot.
“We were all very suspicious the day that they opened,” said Hardin, who teaches taekwondo next door. “Pretty much everyone here knew what was happening here, that it was a dispensary for opioids, and we were not happy about it.”
Federal indictments unsealed Wednesday seem to confirm some of Hardin’s worst suspicions.
James Litton, a former nurse practitioner at the Hacks Cross clinic, is accused of writing illegal prescriptions for opioids in 2017 and 2018. He’s one of 60 medical professionals across the nation and 15 in Western Tennessee indicted as part of a federal opioid bust.
Dr. Thomas Hughes is accused of writing himself prescriptions for testosterone from 2007 to 2010. When he got caught, prosecutors say he started working in other Memphis doctors’ offices and writing testosterone prescriptions using their credentials from 2015 to 2017.
Two other West Tennessee doctors are accused of trading pills for pleasure. One is based in Jackson, but Dr. Richard Farmer worked in East Memphis.
The psychiatrist is accused of writing nine prescriptions, some of them opioids, to five different patients. The indictment claims the prescriptions were often in “exchange for sexual favors or companionship.”
Online reviews for Dr. Michael Hellman in Collierville raised suspicions long before his indictment. Former patients labelled him a “nutcase” and a “psychopath.” Another wrote, “the feds needs [sic] to be in his office asap.”
Prosecutors are accusing him of writing three unnecessary prescriptions for Schedule II drugs as late as March of this year.
“If you’re selling them or giving them for absolutely no reason, that’s the kind of thing that breeds addiction as well as crime,” said Hardin.
Nationwide, prosecutors say the medical professionals charged wrote a total of 350,000 prescriptions for 32 million pills.