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Southwest Virginia doctor convicted on 861 federal drug charges, faces 20+ years in prison

Charges include drug distribution resulting in death


ABINGDON, Va. – A southwest Virginia doctor has been convicted on more than 800 federal counts of drug distribution, including distribution resulting in death, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Joel Smithers, a Martinsville-based doctor, was found guilty Thursday on 861 counts of illegally prescribing Schedule II controlled substances after a nine-day jury trial in U.S. District Court in Abingdon. Smithers, 36, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of more than $200 million.  

The jury also found that oxycodone and oxymorphone, which Smithers prescribed to a West Virginia woman, was the cause of her death. 

Evidence presented at trial showed Smithers opened an office in Martinsville in August 2015 and prescribed controlled substances to every patient in his practice, totaling in more than 500,000 Schedule II drugs being distributed, according to the Department of Justice. 

Authorities say the drugs distributed as a part of this case included oxymorphone, oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl. 

A majority of patients receiving prescriptions from Smithers reportedly traveled hundreds of miles to receive the drugs. Authorities say Smithers did not accept insurance and took over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before a search warrant was executed in his office on March 7, 2017. 

U.S. District Court Judge James P. Jones ordered Smithers be taken into custody pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Aug. 16 in Abingdon. 

Officials say the case was investigated by the Roanoke offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Tactical Diversion Squad and the Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General. Task force officers with the police departments of Bristol, Martinsville, Buena Vista, Roanoke and Roanoke County; Henry County and Pittsylvania County sheriff's offices and the Virginia State Police helped with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cagle Juhan, Randy Ramseyer and Zachary T. Lee prosecuted the case for the United States.