The CEO of a hospital in Union County was arrested Thursday afternoon by Union County sheriff's deputies, along with four other hospital employees and one former employee.
Dr. Michael Gowder was taken into custody at the hospital, according to Tim Henry, Union General chief financial officer.
Also arrested were Dr. James Heaton, a physician, and members of the Gowder family: Gail Gowder, Michael's wife; David Gowder, Michael's brother; Virginia Hawkins, Michael's sister; and Jamie Hawkins, Virginia's daughter.
The six were taken to the Union County Jail, accused of writing and filling fake prescriptions, mostly for oxycodone, said John George, chief deputy for the Union County Sheriff's Office.
"There was a series of prescriptions written by [Heaton] to the Gowders over a period of time ... [The investigation] had to do with fraudulently obtaining prescriptions and filling them," said George.
Investigators searched the hospital and Heaton's office Thursday afternoon.
"As I understand it, there were thousands of pills," said George.
Shortly after the arrests were announced, the board of directors for Union General held an emergency called meeting to discuss the hospital's plans moving forward.
Board members chose to place Michael Gowder on paid administrative leave pending the results of an internal review, which will include considering the results of the ongoing criminal investigation, according to a press statement from the board.
The board of directors also made a decision regarding an interim replacement for the CEO.
"The board of directors for Union General Hospital voted unanimously today to install Lewis Kelley as the Interim CEO of the hospital. Mr. Kelley has served as a previous administrator at Chatuge Regional Hospital and has extensive experience with both Union General and Chatuge Regional Hospital," the release said.
The statement included a brief note on Michael and David Gowder, saying the brothers were "longtime community leaders" and that the Gowder family was "instrumental in the founding and growth of Union General Hospital."
The charges each one faces are as follows:
- David Gowder: 36 counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, seven counts of unauthorized distribution and dispensation of controlled substances;
- Gail Gowder: two charges of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance;
- Michael Gowder: three counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy;
- James Heaton: 40 counts of unauthorized distribution and dispensation of controlled substances, one count of conspiracy;
- Jamie Hawkins: Two counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy;
- Virginia Hawkins: Two counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy.