Dr. Merideth Norris of Kennebunk walks into federal court in Portland on Wednesday with her attorney Tim Zerillo. Norris is charged with 17 counts of illegally prescribing opioids. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

It’s the fastest investigation U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen said she has ever seen.

Federal agents arrested Dr. Merideth Norris in Kennebunk on Oct. 26, 2022, about four months after they requested a state licensing board turn over its investigative records into her work. Norris had been indicted the day before, and a search warrant was executed for her practice.

But in their haste to obtain a warrant, a multi-state task force of prosecutors and investigators missed key details while they were writing up a series of affidavits to establish probable cause.

Norris is facing 17 counts of distribution of a controlled substance for allegedly improperly prescribing opioids and other controlled substances to her patients at the Graceful Recovery addiction treatment center in Kennebunk.

Norris has denied the allegations through her attorneys, who have said they’re not allowed to discuss her case because of court orders.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors were in U.S. District Court in Portland on Wednesday to argue whether the affidavits’ missing details were deliberate and serious omissions of key facts, or whether they were trivial details investigators didn’t realize they had missed.


The hearing itself is rare. Assistant U.S. attorneys argued against the hearing twice. Torresen has yet to issue a ruling on whether to toss the evidence included in the search warrants and is scheduled to hear from more witnesses Monday.

FBI agent Dale Wengler, who’s based in Portland, signed the affidavits that led to the three search warrants in Norris’ case. The first two were served electronically in August and September for patients’ files. The third was to search her physical practice in Kennebunk.

Wengler included the fact that the Maine Board of Osteopathic Licensure opened an investigation against Norris on June 16, 2022, and listed some of the allegations the board had considered as things the board had “determined.”

Wengler also included what triggered the investigation – a letter Norris had received from Walmart’s pharmacies, informing her they would no longer be filling her prescriptions because Walmart didn’t think they were safe.

But the affidavit on the office search warrant did not include the fact that the board had agreed to dismiss its complaint against Norris on Oct. 13, 2022 – 12 days before he filed the affidavit.

Karen Wolfram, one of three lawyers representing Norris, argued the omission was deliberate and is asking Torresen to throw out the evidence seized through the search warrant.


Wolfram said the information had always been available to Wengler; board meetings were public, agendas were posted online, and he could’ve always called or emailed a board member to ask if the complaint had been dismissed.

Wengler denied he was aware of the board’s decision when he signed the affidavit. He said he had “absolutely no” intention to sway Torresen into signing the warrant using misinformation. And Wengler said that even if he had known about the board’s decision, it wouldn’t have made a difference to him.

In his experience, he said, board decisions and investigations don’t carry much weight. They’re limited on the resources and time they have to actually investigate medical professionals, Wengler said.

Susan Strout, who was executive director of the licensing board at the time Norris was investigated, told the court that when the board investigated Norris, they requested files for six patients. They never spoke with anyone from Walmart, Medicare or Medicaid, investigators or the experts Wengler included in his affidavit.

Wengler said his investigation was conducted so quickly because he was moving with urgency and wanted to protect patient safety.

“I would’ve been putting myself in a bad situation had a patient or something adverse happened,” Wengler said. “With this epidemic, it’s of grave concern to everyone involved.”


Torresen also homed in on what she called an eerie coincidence in the investigation’s timeline.

Wengler’s team sent a subpoena to the board for Norris’ records on June 15. On June 16, the board initiated their investigation.

“The timing is so close,” Torresen said. “Did you have some idea the board was starting an investigation? … I just find it very coincidental.”

“I had no idea, your honor,” Wengler said.

Wengler said in his affidavit that the board opened its investigation shortly after learning about the Walmart letter from the executive director of the Maine Osteopathic Association, which advocates for osteopathic doctors like Norris.

But the association’s director, Amanda Mahan, testified Wednesday that she brought it to the board’s attention only after Norris sent her the letter. Mahan was concerned about what Walmart was doing, not Norris’ actions.

“We were concerned that Walmart was going after a physician and refusing to fill a prescription,” Mahan testified. “We knew it wasn’t an isolated issue.”

Medical professionals who prescribe pain medication, and even those who advocate for stricter restrictions on opioid prescriptions, have told the Portland Press they’re concerned about the precedent Norris’ arrest might set, and how regularly the federal government might choose to pursue cases against doctors.

Her attorneys have also argued that federal prosecutors don’t have the grounds to pursue this kind of case against Norris, in motions to dismiss the 17-count indictment last fall. Torresen denied those motions in January.

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