Feds nab Guzman, Maryville ‘pill mill’ fugitive
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — After a month on the lam, the former owner of a Maryville pain clinic will be returning to East Tennessee in the custody of U.S. marshals.
Tamral “Tammy” Guzman, 42, was caught Wednesday morning as she walked on the boardwalk in Hollywood, Fla.
The former owner of Maryville Pain Clinic fled on Oct. 2, the eighth day of her federal trial on drug and money laundering charges.
Guzman was caught at about 8:20 a.m. as she walked from a Hollywood motel where she and her boyfriend, Brian Hatcher, were allegedly staying, according to Warren Mays, supervisory deputy U.S. marshal.
“I left because I knew I wasn’t going to get a fair trial,” Guzman told Brian Andrews, a reporter for CBS4 News in Miami, in an interview after her arrest.
Mays said the authorities set up surveillance cameras Tuesday evening within a two-block radius of a motel, after the Smoky Mountain Fugitive Task Force and the Blount County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the location after nearly a month’s investigation.
“We’ve known from the beginning since she fled her trial that she had fled to Florida,” Mays said. “We have been tracking her and gathering information. We had enough to where we had a location, began a surveillance last night where we identified an area where she might be.
“Guzman was seen this morning as she walked on the boardwalk in Hollywood toward the beach, and she was arrested there this morning,” Mays added.
Hatcher had a state warrant for violation of probation, but prosecutors in Blount County have not yet filed an extradition warrant. He was briefly detained, but was released soon after, according to Mays.
The CBS4 news reporter also interviewed Hatcher, according to a story on the station’s website.
Hatcher said federal prosecutors planned to make an example out of Guzman. He said she didn’t deserve to spend the rest of her life in prison for filling out prescription forms that were pre-signed by a nurse practitioner.
“You sit and let people put on evidence against you for six straight days and you know that if you get found guilty that you’re going away forever, you would leave too,” said Hatcher. “It was a complete railroad! She’s guilty of some type of fraud, prescription fraud because her nurse practitioner pre-signed the prescription and she filled it out. She’s guilty of fraud at best; it’s not supposed to cost a lady her life.”
Boyfriend got a job
Investigators were tipped off that Hatcher had gotten a job at a restaurant in Hollywood and were under the impression that Guzman might be nearby, Mays said.
“We had some good information and a good tip,” Mays said. “We began surveillance and it was confirmed that Hatcher was working at this restaurant. The surveillance saw her last night, and it was pretty sure that they had her. It led right to a motel, but it wasn’t certain that’s where she was living. They felt uncomfortable in taking a chance that they might miss her. They went ahead and set up a surveillance this morning, and sure enough it worked out.”
Mays said that Guzman was arrested without incident, and she will make an official appearance in Florida before a U.S. magistrate there before being brought back to East Tennessee.
“She’ll be appointed a lawyer and will be entitled to a legal hearing,” Mays said. “She’s already fled while she was on bond in a major federal case, so they will keep her in custody to transport her from south Florida back to Knoxville.”
Guzman’s trial in U.S. District Court continued despite her absence. On Oct. 4, a jury convicted Guzman on 57 counts of drug and money laundering charges. She was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute Schedule II and Schedule IV substances, possession with intent to distribute Schedule II and IV substances, and 55 different counts of money laundering involving structuring financial transactions.
Mays said it will be up to the prosecutors as to whether there will be additional charges for fleeing her trial, but she will definitely be present for her upcoming sentencing hearing for her conviction.
The hearing is scheduled for March 20, 2013, where she faces 20 years in prison on each of the drug charges and a fine of up to $1 million. She also faces 20 years on six of the money laundering charges.
After the verdict was delivered, court officials conducted another hearing to consider the forfeiture of Guzman’s assets. The jury returned a second verdict ordering Guzman to forfeit them to the government, and also ordered a money judgment in favor of the government in excess of $2 million.
Guzman was arrested in December 2010 following a 13-month investigation into the Maryville Pain Management Clinic, as well as the Breakthrough Pain Therapy Center. A federal grand jury in Knoxville returned multiple indictments against Guzman, who is not a licensed medical professional. However, she did not have to be licensed to own a pain management clinic, according to state law.
The indictment said that Guzman used information from her employees to buy controlled substances in bulk such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and oxycontin, among others, and give prescriptions.
$28,000 a day
Court records indicated that Guzman was earning as much as $28,000 a day in cash payments from patients at her clinic, which opened in the fall of 2008 at 118 Parliament Drive in Maryville.
The clinic also had another short-lived location on East Broadway Avenue, depending heavily on licensed medical personnel she employed.
Records noted patients paid up front to garner prescriptions for painkillers that most of her clients were addicted to. The fees ranged from $175 to $200 per visit, and those who did not have the fee would be turned away. However, Guzman reportedly would give a break to people she knew.
Guzman would make cash bank deposits ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 almost daily.
Mays said investigators felt very confident that Guzman was in Florida. “That has always been her base of operation,” he said. “It’s an area she’s familiar with, and she has lots of associations and relatives down there.”
Any family members she may have had contact with while in Florida will likely not face any charges for attempting to harbor her, Mays said. “Harboring is a very difficult crime to prove, and I don’t think even after an investigation they can prove that case, so I would not expect it,” he said.