A 56-year-old grandmother from Miami is accused of pocketing millions selling oxycodone and other opiates at four pain clinics she operated in east Tennessee, according to federal prosecutors.
Now almost four years after her arrest and despite pleas for leniency, she’s been sentenced to 33 years behind bars.
Sylvia Hofstetter was also ordered to pay back $3.6 million after a jury found her guilty of racketeering, money laundering and other crimes during a lengthy trial earlier this year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee said Wednesday in a news release.
“This defendant reaped millions of dollars in personal profits by operating destructive opioid pill mills in multiple states, inflicting lasting harm on multiple communities,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt said in the release.
Hofstetter’s operation dates to 2010, when prosecutors said the Drug Enforcement Administration raided a pill mill owned by three of her co-defendants where she worked in Hollywood, Florida.
“Testimony revealed that law enforcement’s crackdown on hundreds of pill mills in South Florida during that time-period precipitated the move to East Tennessee, where a large percentage of those clinics’ opioid-addicted customers lived,” prosecutors said.
Hofstetter was tasked with opening pain clinics in and around Knoxville and keeping patient numbers high to ensure “enormous profits,” according to the news release. But she soon went into business for herself, opening competing “pill mills in secret from her Florida employers” and reaping more than $4 million in profits.
At the time of the indictment, investigators’ list of property to be forfeited from Hofstetter included two Lexus cars, a Rolex, several Cartier watches, a Swarovski crystal bracelet and more than 100 other pieces of jewelry.
Prosecutors said she was motivated by money, saying “greed was behind it all.” She referred to herself as the “Queen Bitch” and preyed on drug addicts, according to a sentencing memo.
All told, prosecutors said the pill mils churned out more than 11 million tablets of oxycodone, oxymorphone and morphine, generating Hofstetter and her co-defendants $21 million in revenue.
Hofstetter was indicted alongside several others in October 2016. After a three-month trial that ended in February, she was found guilty of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy, drug conspiracy, money laundering and maintaining drug-involved premises.
Prosecutors pushed for a lengthy prison sentence of 470 months — almost four decades — as a result.
“After destroying so many lives for the sake of greed, she must pay with what remains of her life,” they said in court filings. “Any other sentence under these circumstances, while merciful, would be unjust. Inasmuch as Hofstetter never showed any mercy in committing her crimes, it is difficult to imagine how this court could justify a merciful sentence in this case.”
But defense attorneys painted a different picture, saying Hofstetter was a hands-off administrator infrequently seen at the clinics whose “offense was not seeing that something illegal was happening and stopping it,” according to court filings.
“In agreeing to come to Knoxville, Ms. Hofstetter made the greatest misjudgment of her life,” defense attorneys said in court filings. “Her misguided trust and loyalty to (others) landed her a federal felony conviction and the potential of spending the remainder of her life in prison.”
Hofstetter is a single mother with one grandson who her attorneys described as “the light of Sylvia’s life.” In pushing for a lesser sentence, they said she suffers from a variety of ailments, has no prior criminal history and has already served more than three years in prison and 30 months of home confinement.
The judge disagreed.
District Judge Thomas A. Varlan handed Hofstetter a prison sentence of 400 months — less than what prosecutors sought but lengthier than the sentence her attorneys requested.
“The court is mindful of the impact on the defendant and the impact on her family,” Varlan said during Hofstetter’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. “But the court is also mindful of the impact on our community.”