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Florida woman sentenced to 33 years in prison for operating East TN pill mills

Her 400-month sentence means she'll be in her 80s before she can get out of prison.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — A Florida woman found guilty of operating a multimillion-dollar pill mill scheme in East Tennessee will have to spend 33 years in prison for her crimes.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan sentenced Sylvia Hofstetter, 56, on Wednesday afternoon. He gave her 400 months, which works out to 33 years and four months.

Varlan also ordered her to pay $3.6 million in forfeiture.

Hofstetter, from South Florida, already has spent several years in local confinement as her case wound through the federal judicial system.

The mother of one and grandmother of one said she regretted ever moving to Tennessee. She told Varlan she wanted to be closer to a man she loved who lived in Georgia.

Government prosecutors said greed was her motivation. She made millions on the proceeds of selling prescription pills to addicts and dealers at area clinics, witnesses testified.

She bought a nice West Knox County house, set up a college fund for her young grandson and spent a lot of money on gambling, which was a passion, testimony showed.

Hofstetter said she'd been misled by Florida business partners about the actual intent of the pill clinics. She said she'd worked "tirelessly" for them and now they've "forgotten I existed."

She added she "went to bat" for clinic employees who ended up stabbing her in the back.

Hofstetter apologized to her family for what they'd gone through since authorities raided the operation in March 2015.

"I have learned that I am not as smart as I thought, especially about people," she said.

An East Tennessee jury convicted Hofstetter in February 2020 after a four-month trial on more than 10 counts, including racketeering, drug conspiracy and money laundering.

Authorities said Hofstetter oversaw several cash-only Knoxville area clinics, with three other nurse practitioners seeing patients and writing prescriptions. She moved to the Knoxville area around 2010 to run the clinics at the bidding of several backers who had profited from a clinic in Hollywood, Fla., testimony showed.

Starting in the early 2010s, Hofstetter opened clinics on Gallaher View Road, then Lenoir City and eventually on Lovell Road.

Some 11 million opioid pills were prescribed out of the clinics, according to the government.

The clinics Hofstetter supervised gave scant medical attention to the hundreds of patients they saw, the government alleged. The main purpose was to make money -- lots of money, according to the government.

Hofstetter said she was unaware of much of what was happening because she focused on the office end of the business.

The three nurses, who were convicted of maintaining drug premises, are free on bond and face sentencing in the coming weeks.

Co-defendant Luca Sartini, alleged by the government of being one of the primary conspirators of the drug operation, was extradited this summer to the United States from Italy and faces trial in March. Another alleged conspirator, Luigi Palma, awaits return to the U.S.