The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) governs the manufacture, distribution, and dispensing of controlled substances in the United States. The CSA sets forth which drugs and other substances are defined by law as “controlled substances” and assigns those controlled substances to one of five schedules (Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V) depending on their potential for abuse, the likelihood of physical or psychological dependency, accepted medical use and accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

A controlled substance assigned to Schedule II means that the drug has a high potential for abuse, the drug has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions.

Hydrocodone is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. Hydrocodone is sometimes prescribed under brand names, including Norco, Lortab, and Vicodin. It is used to treat severe pain and as with other opioids, it is highly addictive.

Chapter 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations governs the issuance of prescriptions. It provides, among other things, that a prescription for a controlled substance “must be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of his professional practice.”

A “Pill Mill” is a fake medical clinic or front. It is set up to issue prescriptions for painkillers, like Vicodin, illegally. The federal government actively investigates suspected pill mills. It is not unusual for the federal government to indict and prosecute individuals allegedly involved in pill mill clinics. I have defended many clients charged in federal court with operating pill mills.

Anyone who knowingly aids a pill mill in illegally distributing controlled substances is subject to federal criminal prosecution. Individuals who conspire to operate a pill mill clinic are typically charged with Conspiracy to Unlawfully Distribute and Dispense Controlled Substances under 21 U.S.C. Section 846. The penalties for being involved with a pill mill can be very severe.

A person might be charged with conspiring to operate a pill mill clinic in several ways. For example:

  • Where individuals without a medical license or DEA Registration allegedly pose as doctors to assist the Pill Mill clinic in its operation;
  • Where doctors allegedly prescribe controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the scope of professional practice;
  • Where individuals, pretending to be patients, allegedly pay a fee to obtain a prescription even though there is no legitimate medical necessity for the issuance of the prescription;
  • Where individuals allegedly recruit drug addicts to act as patients to obtain large amounts of controlled substances, where there is no legitimate medical need for the issuance of the prescription;
  • Where doctors allegedly sign prescriptions in blank to be used by the Pill Mill to sell controlled substances illegally;
  • Where doctors or other individuals allegedly complete fake documentation for a non-existent or phony patient’s file to justify prescriptions issued.


Every client should have the facts of his case carefully analyzed. There are defenses to Pill Mill cases. For example, a person may work at a pill mill, believing that the pill mill is a legitimate medical clinic. Most pill mills look like legitimate clinics; some employees may work at such a place without knowingly joining a conspiracy. This defense may apply to different people who work in a clinic.

The law does allow for legitimate pain management clinics. There are requirements that must be met to operate a legitimate pain management clinic. Employees may believe they are working at a legitimate pain management clinic. Each client’s circumstance must be carefully studied to determine how best to defend a client charged with operating a pill mill.

All Federal Drug Conspiracy charges are serious. In Federal Court, the Government works hard to put cases together. The Defense, therefore, must work very hard to fight the Government. I have fought for clients in Federal Court for many years. I have won Federal Drug Conspiracy Cases. If you want me to fight for you, call me at 713-655-7400.



  • Robert Fickman has been a criminal defense attorney in Houston for 40+ Years.
  • Robert Fickman has handled over 300 Federal Cases.
  • Robert Fickman has kept some clients from being charged in Federal Court.
  • Robert Fickman has obtained the dismissal of some Federal Charges.
  • Robert Fickman has gone to trial in Federal Court and obtained acquittals on all charges for some clients. In 2022, Robert Fickman went to trial in United States v. Rebolledo. Robert Fickman’s client was the ONLY client in the entire case to be acquitted on all charges.
  • Robert Fickman has argued many cases before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Robert Fickman has had an AV Rating (the highest rating) with Martindale Hubbell for over 20 years.
  • Robert Fickman has been named a “Texas Super Lawyer” since 2015.
  • Robert Fickman is well-respected by his peers, and he has received numerous awards.
  • Robert Fickman was the President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA) from 2006-2007.
  • Robert Fickman is a past Board Member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA).
  • Robert Fickman serves on the HCCLA and TCDLA Strike Forces, where he is called upon to come to the aid of other criminal defense lawyers.