Crime

North Texas doctor who dealt painkillers to homeless in ‘pill mill’ clinics sentenced

Why it’s so hard to break an opioid addiction

More than a half-million people died from opioids between 2000 and 2015. Today, opioid deaths are considered an epidemic. To understand the struggle of a drug addiction, we take a closer look at what happens to the body.
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More than a half-million people died from opioids between 2000 and 2015. Today, opioid deaths are considered an epidemic. To understand the struggle of a drug addiction, we take a closer look at what happens to the body.

A federal judge in Dallas sentenced a North Texas doctor to 13 years for running a “pill mill” in sham medical clinics Monday.

Dr. Carlos Luis Venegas was found guilty of overseeing the illegal prescriptions of nearly a million narcotics, which were prescribed with no legitimate medical purpose, in February.

Venegas, 62, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance following a five-day trial before U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey in early February.

“These pill mills help to perpetuate the tragic opioid crisis gripping our country,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox in a press release. “We cannot allow unscrupulous conduct by physicians to add to the supply of dangerous drugs on the streets.”

Venegas was the supervising physician for a series of fake medical clinics that were actually fronts for the illegal distribution of hydrocodone and alprazolam, also known as Xanax, according to evidence presented at trial.

Witnesses said those involved in the sham paid homeless and indigent people to pose as patients seeking medication. At the clinics, nurses and physician’s assistants conducted basic exams that did not include actual medical testing or documentation of the person’s supposed ailments.

At the end of the visit, patients were given a large amount of medications, usually for the highest possible doses.

The medical clinics, which are now closed included Arlington Oaks Medical Clinic on Billings Street, Great Southwest Medical Clinic in Dallas, Redbird Family Medical Clinic in Dallas and KSW Medical Management in DeSoto. DeSoto is about 15 miles south of Dallas.

Several of Venegas’s codefendants, including several nurse practitioners and clinic managers, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.

Codefendant sentences include:

  • Christan Michael Hicks – 70 months
  • Craig Zahn – 33 months
  • Leslie Rodriguez – 33 months
  • Don Broussard – 33 months
  • Ron Cunningham – 18 months
  • James Christopher Ware (co-owner of clinics, charged in a separate indictment) – 135 months
  • Stanley James (co-owner of clinics, also charged in a separate indictment) – 97 months
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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.


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