Monroe Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute Oxycontin with Michigan Doctor
MAR 11 - Detroit, Michigan - United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today that on March 10, 2010, Gerald Richards, of Monroe, Michigan, plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, distributing a controlled substance, and aiding and abetting in the distribution of a controlled substance. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Robert L. Corso, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge, and Andrew G. Arena, FBI Special Agent in Charge.
After one full day of trial on the referenced charges, Richards changed his plea from not guilty to guilty. During a change of plea hearing in U.S. District Court, Richards admitted that he participated in a conspiracy with Dr. Sohrab Shafinia, a doctor of osteopathy who practiced at various locations in Oakland County, Michigan, between February of 2006 and March of 2007. Richards, the last of five defendants charged in the case, admitted that he met with Dr. Shafinia on various occasions at his medical office(s) and at other locations for the purpose of writing prescriptions for controlled substances in exchange for cash payment. Richards also admitted to recruiting additional "patients" to send to Dr. Shafinia. Additionally, Richards submitted the names of others for whom the doctor wrote prescriptions, in exchange for cash from Richards, without ever meeting the patients. Dr. Shafinia referred the prescription recipients to SafeScript Pharmacy in Farmington Hills, where Richard Riozzi, a pharmacist licensed by the State of Michigan, worked as a full time pharmacist. Dr. Shafinia issued prescriptions for over 18,000 dosage units of Oxycontin™ and its generic equivalent oxycodone HCL. Shafinia, Riozzi and two other co-defendants, Stuart Stein and Randell McDaniel previously pled guilty to the indictment. Richards is the final defendant in the case to plead guilty.
"These charges underscore the seriousness with which my office, the DEA and the FBI view the diversion of prescription controlled substances and their distribution on the street. This problem is every bit as destructive to society as the distribution of illicit drugs, and culprits engaging in such behavior will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," U.S. Attorney McQuade said.
Robert L. Corso, DEA Special Agent in Charge, said, “This conspiracy to divert medicine into the illegal market is every bit as dangerous, if not more so, than cocaine and heroin dealers on our streets. The convictions in this case have put a large dent into the illegal diversion of prescription drugs and should serve as a warning that the DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to pursue those that are illegally diverting prescription drugs into our communities.”
Andrew G, Arena, FBI Special Agent in Charge said, "Health care fraud and drug diversion are very real and serious problems in the United States. Many believe these to be victimless crimes, however, the victims are the individuals addicted to the controlled substances and the public who has to pay for it."
Richards is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14, 2010, at 2 pm before United States District Judge Julian Abele Cook. The case was investigated by special agents of the DEA and FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Dawkins Davis.