A Yale New Haven Hospital emergency department doc pleaded guilty Thursday to masterminding an opioid scam, and opened up about the addiction that she said took control of her. Click here for a previous story about the case and the guilty plea of the scheme’s middle woman.
Jennifer Farrell, 38, entered the plea to one count of possession with intent to distribute oxycodone during an online hearing conducted by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Meyer.
While remaining subdued and relatively silent during the course of the hour-long hearing, Farrell became visibly emotional as she described past trauma that, she claimed, led to her opioid addiction and illegal distribution of the controlled substance.
“Once I got on this train, I didn’t know how to get off of it,” Farrell said.
Farrell prescribed oxycodone to patients whom she had never seen and who did not need the medication. She “wrote illegal prescriptions for nearly 4,000 oxycodone tablets,” according to the government.
The conspiracy was ultimately discovered after a person, referred to as “C.T.” in legal documents, received a notification that their oxycodone prescription for a “motorcycle crash” was ready to be picked up. C.T. was uninvolved in the scam and ultimately called the police after Farrell tried to convince her to fabricate a story surrounding her medical need for the pills.
Farrell entered the plea after her attorney, public defender Kelly Barrett, reached a plea deal with the government, which was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Cherry.
Under the plea deal, the government is recommending a prison term of up to 57 months. She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 26.
“Firstly, I take full responsibility for everything that was laid out here,” Farrell told the judge. “I am deeply regretful of everything that happened, and I know that there’s absolutely no excuse for what I did.
“But I would like the court to know that what got me to this place was not wanting to do harm to others or wanting to disrespect the law, but I was in a place personally where I was in pure desperation.”
She recounted how, in years away from the United States, she experienced unspecified “traumatic events” which left her with PTSD and has led her to see a trauma therapist weekly.
“In a constant state of terror,” and also under pressure from her job as a medical resident, Farrell turned to oxycodone for relief, she said.
“The oxy helped me. I thought it helped me.”
“I knew [possessing and distributing the opioids] was an unethical thing to do. But I justified it to myself in my poor state of mind that I’d be able to help more people… I’d be able to do my job and keep going,” she said.
Farrell ended by noting the “irony” of using the oxycodone to try and preserve her medical career which, due to the charges, will almost certainly come to an end.
Farrell remains free on $200,000 bond. She is currently living with her elderly mother in North Carolina.