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Alabama Doctor Arrested for Unlawful Distribution of Prescription Drugs and Money Laundering

MAY 12 (MONTGOMERY, Ala.) – Dr. Robert M. Ritchea, 53, of LaGrange, Georgia, was arrested yesterday after being indicted by a federal grand jury, announced Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Stephen G. Azzam and George L. Beck, Jr, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.  Dr. Ritchea, who maintains a family medical practice in Phenix City, Alabama, is charged with drug distribution and money laundering offenses.  Those charges stem from Dr. Ritchea’s operating a “pill mill,” which is a medical clinic created to dispense controlled substances inappropriately, unlawfully, and for non-medical reasons.

Specifically, the indictment charges Dr. Ritchea with writing prescriptions for Schedule II pain medications—such as hydrocodone and methadone—knowing that the patients receiving the prescriptions had no legitimate medical need for the medications.  Additionally, according to the indictment, Dr. Ritchea used the proceeds of his pill mill to purchase Schedule II pain medication—specifically, hydromorphone and hydrocodone—directly from a drug manufacturer.  With these pills, Dr. Ritchea was able to fill his patients’ unlawful and unnecessary prescriptions, without using a pharmacy. 

If convicted, Dr. Ritchea faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment on each count.  He also faces substantial monetary penalties and restitution. 

This case was investigated by the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations Division.  The Opelika, Alabama Police Department, Chambers County, Alabama Drug Task Force, the Auburn, Alabama Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Russell County, Alabama Sheriff’s Office, and the Lawrence County, Alabama Sheriff’s Office all assisted in the investigation. 

Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.  

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