Former Union General administrators arraigned in federal court


GAINESVILLE, Ga. – According to a release from the Northern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office, three former administrators of Union General Hospital were arraigned Monday, April 9, in federal court in Gainesville, Georgia.

John Michael Gowder, Dr. David Gowder, and Dr. James Heaton, all of Blairsville, Georgia, were all indicted on federal charges for illegally prescribing and obtaining thousands of doses of prescription pain medications outside the usual course of professional medical practice and for no legitimate medical purpose.

From 2011 to 2015, John Michael Gowder, 60, served as chief executive officer of Union General while Dr. David Gowder, 61, served as the hospital’s emergency room director and Dr. James Heaton operated a family practice clinic in Blairsville during that time, according to the release.

As part of an Operation SCOPE (Strategically Combatting Opioids through Prosecution and Enforcement) investigation conducted by the Northern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office the Gowders and Heaton were indicted for illegally prescribing and obtaining doses of oxycodone, hydrocodone and alprazolam. During their affiliations with Union General, the Gowders and Heaton, according to the release, personally filled illegal prescriptions at local pharmacies in Georgia and crossed state lines filling prescriptions at pharmacies in North Carolina and in Tennessee.

The release alleged the names of other physicians were forged in writing illegal prescriptions and the Gowders themselves abused their administrative roles at Union General to intimidate employees of Union General into concealing the unlawful acquisition of the controlled substances.

This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Union County Sheriff’s Office, the Cherokee County (North Carolina) Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency and the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force.


Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Dr. David Gowder indicted on at least 66 counts

Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley

Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley

Dr. David Gowder, former Board Member of Union General Hospital Authority and Board Member of Union General Hospital, Inc., was indicted by a Union County Grand Jury on Thursday and Friday on 66 counts including improerly prescribing medications and 4 counts of forging another doctor’s name on a prescription, according to a phone interview with Enotah District Attorney Jeff Langley late Friday afternoon. Langley said Jamie Lee Harkins is a co-defendant in the case. Harkins is believed to be Dr. Gowder’s niece and was indicted on four counts of retrieving medications under another person’s name. Dr. Gowder was indicted last year in Fannin County, GA on similar charges.

Mike Gowder, a dentist at one time, and former President of Union General Hospital and Dr. James Heaton, former CEO of Union General Hospital, Inc., have been arrested, but not yet indicted in Union County in connection with this case.

Gail Nicholson Gowder, wife of Mike Gowder, and Virginia Lou Harkins, Dr. Gowder’s sister, and, mother of Jamie Lee Harkins, have also been arrested but not indicted in Union County in connection with this case.

It appears that Dr. Gowder and the Board of Union General Hospital Authority formed Union General Hospital, Inc. which leased Union General Hospital Authority for 40 years, which gave them control of the hospital with little or no public oversight.

Fetch Your News will have more on this story as it unfolds.

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