From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM — A Springville couple accused in a St. Clair County pill mill scheme entered dual guilty pleas Monday in federal court, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, Drug Enforcement Administration-Birmingham Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge Andy Langan and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Holloman.
Cindy Louise Hyche Dunn, 53, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose and to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for purposes of promoting the pill mill scheme. Her husband, Thomas Mason Dunn, 56, pleaded guilty to the same money laundering conspiracy. The couple entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor. A sentencing date has not been set.
From January 2012 through December 2015, Cindy Dunn ran a pain management clinic in Moody, Alabama, operating under the name Cindy Dunn & Dr. Buckingham, M.D., Weight Loss Clinic and Pain Management (CDPM). CDPM was not a legitimate pain clinic. It was a pill mill churning out thousands of prescriptions for opioid painkillers. Thomas Dunn performed financial transactions on behalf of CDPM to further the pill mill scheme. He also received prescriptions for opioid painkillers from CDPM.
“This couple operated a pain management clinic with reckless disregard for patient safety,” Town said. “To those who continue to poison our communities by this illegal practice and enable the growth of the opioid crisis in our state, you will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will have a bed in federal prison.”
“This investigation demonstrates the fact that, if you are a doctor in the state of Alabama and you are illegally prescribing controlled substances, we will find you and you will pay a heavy price,” Langan said. “This is another example of the great teamwork between federal, state and local law enforcement partners to positively impact the lives of the good people living in our communities.”
As part of their plea agreements, the couple will forfeit their Springville home to the United States. The agreement with Cindy Dunn stipulates a 10-year prison sentence. The agreement with Thomas Dunn stipulates a 30-month prison sentence. Proctor accepted the couples’ guilty pleas today, but reserved decision on whether to accept the stipulated prison sentences until the couples’ sentencing hearings. The plea agreements entered by Cindy Dunn and Thomas Dunn with the United States are binding, meaning any party may withdraw if the court does not accept the stipulated prison sentences.
According to her plea agreement, as the owner and president of CDPM, Cindy Dunn ran its day-to-day operations and hired and directed physicians and staff. Two doctors issued the majority of CDPM’s controlled substance prescriptions, neither were pain management specialists. John Ladd Buckingham was CDPM’s primary physician, while Steven Bruce Hefter also issued prescriptions for CDPM at various times. CDPM attracted patients from all over Alabama and outside the state. Patients came from Huntsville, Muscle Shoals, Florence and Mobile, Alabama. Patients also flocked to CDPM from Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. CDPM received anywhere from 40 to 80 patients in a single day.