By Jeff Lehr
A federal judge has assessed former Carthage clinic operator Tammy Neil one year and a day in prison for her role in the illegal distribution of more than $1.5 million in prescription drugs and the laundering of the proceeds.
U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr sentenced Neil, 43, of Carthage, to the term at a hearing Monday in federal court in Springfield. Neil must serve the entire length of the sentence in a federal prison without parole, and the judge ordered her to pay a $10,000 fine.
The defendant also must forfeit to the federal government $200,000 in proceeds obtained from the illegal distribution of more than $1.5 million worth of prescription drugs through the Complete Quick Care Clinic that she operated in Carthage with her former husband, Dr. John Freitas, from Jan. 1, 2005, through March 26, 2008.
She also must forfeit a 1996 Piper airplane, a 2007 Jaguar and $10,000 in cash as a substitute asset for a 2008 Cadillac Escalade. Both cars and the plane are being forfeited as property purchased with the proceeds of criminal conduct.
Neil pleaded guilty in July to two of the 24 counts contained in a May 2010 indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Springfield.
A pre-sentence report by the U.S. Probation Office recommended a sentence of 18 to 24 months. The U.S. attorney’s office was seeking a term of 18 months without parole. But Neil’s attorney, Shane Cantin, raised objections to what the defense saw as improperly applied enhancements in the sentencing recommendations.
Neil ran the day-to-day operations of the clinic and was in charge of the weight-loss side of the business, while Freitas was primarily in charge of the pain and anxiety side, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri.
The federal indictment alleged that Neil and Freitas dispensed large quantities of prescription drugs “outside the usual course of professional practice and for no legitimate medical purpose.” The violations involved large quantities of the weight-loss drug phentermine and the narcotic hydrocodone, and other drugs, including alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium).
Freitas was registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration to write prescriptions. But Neil, as a professional counselor, was not licensed to dispense drugs.
The U.S. attorney’s office said Neil was responsible for seeing more than half of the clinic’s patients every day, and that she directed employees to weigh patients, chart their weights and sell them phentermine, which some patients referred to as “synthetic meth.” The drug is an amphetamine-based substance that shares some properties with methamphetamine but also differs significantly from the street drug.
The clinic became the eighth largest purchaser of hydrocodone in Missouri in its first year of business, according to the DEA. The clinic led the state the following year.
Neil and Freitas were divorced in December 2007, and she received the clinic as a result of divorce proceedings. Freitas moved to Florida, and he committed suicide in February 2010, three months before Neil was indicted. Federal documents suggest that he also would have been indicted if not for his death.
FEDERAL COURT DOCUMENTS state that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service found that Tammy Neil and her ex-husband, John Freitas, deposited $1,568,793.50 from prescription drug sales into several bank accounts.
WHILE ALL OF THAT MONEY was subject to forfeiture under a commingling theory of money laundering, the U.S. attorney’s office allowed Neil to forfeit $200,000 in cash, a plane, a car and the cash equivalent for a second car in lieu of the total amount of proceeds as part of plea negotiations, according to court records.