A Sandy Springs podiatrist and her office manager face federal charges of illegal distribution of highly addictive opioid painkillers, including oxycodone and fetanyl.

Dr. Arnita Avery-Kelly, 54, a licensed podiatrist with offices in Sandy Springs and Lithonia, and Brenda Lewis, 55, her office manager, were indicted by a federal grand jury Dec. 21 after a nearly three year investigation into the doctor’s high volume and high dosage of opioids, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

“Dr. Avery-Kelly was trusted to provide appropriate medical care to her patients,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn said in a press release. “Instead, with the assistance of Ms. Lewis, she allegedly prescribed addictive opioids without any legitimate medical need. Addiction to powerful prescription opioids unfortunately continues to take a daily toll on many members of our community.”

During a nine-month period between December 2014 through August 2015, Avery-Kelly allegedly prescribed over 116,500 oxycodone 30 mg pills; 41,800 hydromorphone 8 mg pills; and 400 fentanyl patches, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In April 2016, agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Health and Human Services executed a federal search warrant at Dr. Avery-Kelly’s office in Sandy Springs. At that time, Dr. Avery-Kelly voluntarily surrendered her DEA registration that permitted her to prescribe controlled substances, the release states.

“It is sad commentary when persons in the medical community abuse their positions of trust to hide behind the veil of legitimacy to commit criminal acts,” said Daniel R. Salter, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division, in the press release. “The reckless distribution of pharmaceuticals results in addiction and death. Many thanks to the men and women in law enforcement who made this case a success.”
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court states Arnita Avery-Kelly as a licensed podiatrist is permitted to evaluate and treat the foot and leg. A nearly three-year federal investigation into her prescriptions began after the Georgia Drug & Narcotics Agency (GDNA) visited Dr. Avery-Kelly in November 2013, and February 2014, to discuss high volume, high dosage prescriptions she had written for opioids.

The indictment alleges that despite GDNA’s warnings, Avery-Kelly, with the assistance of office manager, Brenda Lewis, continued to prescribe large volumes of controlled substances without a legitimate medical need and outside the scope of a podiatric practice.Avery-Kelly and Lewis are both charged with conspiring to distribute controlled substances outside the usual course of professional medical practice and for no legitimate medical purpose from November 2013 to December 2015.

The drugs allegedly supplied include oxycodone, hydromorphone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, phentermine, alprazolam, and promethazine with codeine. Avery-Kelly is also charged with two counts of maintaining a podiatry clinic – first in Lithonia and later in Sandy Springs – for the purpose of illegally distributing drugs. Finally, Avery-Kelly is charged with 57 individual counts of illegal drug distribution for specific prescriptions written to three separate customers. Ms. Lewis is charged with aiding and abetting Avery-Kelly for eight of those prescriptions.

This case is being investigated by the DEA and HHS, with assistance provided by the Georgia Drug & Narcotics Agency, Georgia State Patrol, and the Sandy Springs Police Department.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.