Doctor and Nurse Indicted for Participating in “Pill Mill”
On Wednesday, February 28, 2018, a physician and nurse were
arrested after being indicted in the ongoing investigation and prosecution of a “pill mill” being
operated out of a Montgomery, Alabama medical office. The two new defendants in this case
are physician Willie J. Chester, Jr., 64, of Pike Road, Alabama, and nurse Stephanie Michelle
Ott, 42, of Fairhope, Alabama. Previously charged in this investigation were nurse practitioners
Lillian Akwuba and Elizabeth Cronier, physician Julio Delgado, and clerical workers Misty
Michelle Fannin, Jacqueline Suzanne Brownfield, and Akash Kumar.
All of the defendants are alleged to have assisted Dr. Gilberto Sanchez in operating a
“pill mill” out of Family Practice, a medical clinic located at 4143 Atlanta Highway in
Montgomery. Dr. Gilberto Sanchez, previously a Montgomery physician, owned Family
Practice. In November of 2017, Dr. Sanchez pleaded guilty in federal court to drug distribution,
health care fraud, and money laundering charges. In December, Dr. Sanchez’s former partner,
Dr. Shepherd Odom pleaded guilty to drug distribution and money laundering charges. In
January of 2018, Steven Cox, a nurse practitioner employed by the practice, pleaded guilty to
drug distribution and health care fraud charges.
The most recent indictment in this case charges Chester with drug distribution, health
care fraud, and conspiracy charges. The indictment alleges that Chester worked at Family
Practice in 2016 and 2017, and, during that time, he prescribed controlled substances to patients
knowing that the patients did not need the prescribed medicine. It further alleges that Chester
had health insurance companies billed for unnecessary prescriptions and office evaluations.
As for Ott, the new indictment charges her with conspiracy and health care fraud. The
factual allegations against Ott state that, in 2015, Family Practice employed Ott as a consultant.
In that role, Ott implemented a billing system that caused the practice to overbill health insurance
companies for services provided by nurse practitioners.
Finally, the latest indictment adds new drug distribution and health care fraud charges
against Delgado and Cronier.
If convicted of the drug distribution charges, Chester faces a maximum sentence of 20
years’ in prison. Chester and Ott face maximum term of 10 years on the health care fraud
charges. All defendants also could be assessed substantial fines and other monetary penalties.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. All defendants are
presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion
Squad, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, and the United States
Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General. The Montgomery
County Sheriff’s Office, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, the Montgomery Police
Department, the Opelika Police Department, and the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office assisted in
the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and R. Rand Neeley are
prosecuting the case.