A Sandy Springs podiatrist has been convicted of illegally dealing hundreds of thousands of doses of opioid painkillers and other drugs through her clinics.

Dr. Arnita Avery-Kelly, 56, faces sentencing in federal court on July 24, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The conviction follows a 2016 federal raid on her clinic on Glenridge Drive in Sandy Springs.

Byung J. Pak, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said in a press release that Avery-Kelly “prescribed addictive opioids without any legitimate medical need, turning her prescription pad into an ATM. Her behavior fed into the continuing problem of addiction to powerful prescription opioids, which, unfortunately, continues to take a daily toll on many members of our community.”

Prosecutors say a federal investigation into Avery-Kelly began in 2013, when authorities noticed a high volume of high-dosage prescriptions for opioids written in her clinics in Sandy Springs and Lithonia. Despite official inquiries and warnings, prosecutor say, she continued illegal prescriptions to people who did not need them and continued after she was suspended from submitting claims through Medicare.

According to prosecutors, Avery-Kelly prescribed opioid painkillers and a class of tranquilizers known as benzodiazepines to “addicts and drug-traffickers posing as patients at her podiatric clinics.”

She prescribed more than 275,000 oxycodone pills; 104,000 hydromorphone pills; and 300 fentanyl patches to such people, according to prosecutors, who estimate the 30 mg oxycodone pills had an average sales price of $30 each.

Avery-Kelly’s drug-dealing ended in April 2016 with a federal raid on her Sandy Springs clinic, after which she voluntarily surrendered a registration that enabled her to write prescriptions.

In early May 2019, she was convicted by a federal jury on 27 counts of drug distribution without legitimate medical purpose, according to prosecutors.

Last year, the Reporter published a four-part investigative series “Coping with a Crisis: Opioid Addiction in the Suburbs” and related features about the opioid epidemic in local communities. An overview of that series is available here.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.