There’s an old saying that there are always two sides to every story. The adage is certainly buttressed by the conflicting versions of events given by a Tennessee grandmother and federal prosecutors in a trial being held about 100 miles northeast of Chattanooga.
Fifty-three-year-old Sylvia Hofstetter is accused by prosecutors in a Knoxville courtroom of running what amounts to drug-trafficking operations in pain management clinics in East Tennessee.
The grandmother’s criminal defense attorney argues that she and her pain-clinic partners stuck to the letter of Tennessee law, however. They obtained state Department of Health approval for the clinics that were mandated by law to prescribe pain-killers to patients who insisted on medications to manage their chronic pain.
The lawyer also points out that the clinics like all other businesses in that they need profits to survive. “In order to be profitable, you have to keep people coming in. Her role was to try to keep this business profitable,” he told jurors as the trial opened.
He also noted that the physician-patient relationship requires trust. Doctors have to trust that patients are telling the truth.
Prosecutors say that Hofstetter and her partners gamed the system by illegally selling opioid prescriptions to addicts. Said a prosecutor of the clinic operators, “they wrote prescriptions for massive amounts of opiates. These customers were not receiving medical treatment at these clinics.”
Hofstetter concedes that there might have been illegal drug sales going on, but that it was carried out by staff members behind her back.
If she’s convicted on the medical racketeering and related charges, she could be sentenced to spend years behind bars.