published Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Jasper, Tenn., doctor accepts plea deal on pain pill charges

Jasper, Tenn., physician Charles Michael Howe has agreed to plead guilty to 14 counts of unlawfully dispensing or distributing a controlled substance, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Howe faces a maximum sentence of up to a combined 30 years in prison, as well as fines of up to $1.5 million.

The 14 charges stem from a criminal investigation between October 2011 and June 2013 that claim Howe prescribed hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone "not for a legitimate medical purpose."

According to the court documents, Howe continued to prescribe painkillers to people who no longer were his patients. Some had no medical records with Howe or were issued the pills in other people's names.

As part of the filing, the federal government is requesting that Howe forfeit a 2005 Ford Thunderbird convertible as property "intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of offenses," according to court documents.

Records show Howe used the Thunderbird to meet with individuals and illegally dispense or distribute controlled substances to them, often in the parking lot of his medical clinic and around his neighborhood.

Howe's attorney, John H. Cameron Jr., also of Jasper, said Monday that he could not comment on pending litigation. He also said his client would not comment on the charges.

The Tennessee Department of Health lists Howe's medical license as having expired on Aug. 31. He graduated medical school in 1966 and obtained his Tennessee license in 1972.

Howe had no history of disciplinary action for his entire 41-year Tennessee medical practice before this incident, according to the health department.

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