ABINGDON, Va. (AP) – A Virginia doctor who prosecutors said ran his medical practice like an interstate drug distribution ring has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for illegally prescribing opioids.

Dr. Joel Smithers, of Greensboro, North Carolina, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Abingdon.

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Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Day Rottenborn said Judge James Jones sentenced Smithers to 40 years. He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life.

Smithers was convicted of more than 800 counts of illegally distributing opioids, including oxycodone and oxymorphone that caused the death of a West Virginia woman.

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Authorities say Smithers prescribed opioids to patients from five states while based in Martinsville, Virginia.

Smithers testified that he was a caring doctor who was deceived by some of his patients.

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