Mt. Pleasant doctor found guilty in federal court of opioid trafficking after Columbia pharmacy visit
CHARLESTON, S.C. – United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Dr. Ronald A. Hargrave, 60, of Mt. Pleasant, has been convicted of illegal distribution of controlled substances after a four-day jury trial in federal court in Charleston. Senior United States District Judge Margaret B. Seymour of Charleston presided over the trial and will sentence Hargrave at a later date.
Evidence presented at trial established that Hargrave accompanied a female patient to the Walgreen’s pharmacy on Devine Street in Columbia around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 2, 2015, to fill a prescription for Xanax. Xanax is a controlled substance. The pharmacist on duty, noticing that the prescription, patient, doctor and doctor’s office were all out-of-town, questioned the validity of the prescription. Additionally, the pharmacist testified the female patient and Hargrave acted overly familiar, and that she had never seen a doctor join a patient in her pharmacy to present a prescription. She refused to fill it and called the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control the next day to report the activity.
In April 2017, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Columbia District Office Diversion Group connected the 2015 events to another suspicious after-hours incident involving Hargrave and a female patient. On March 7, 2017, Hargrave had met a different female at the medical clinic in Moncks Corner where he worked. That night, Hargrave had sex with the female at the clinic; in exchange, she received $300 cash and a promise to receive four prescriptions for controlled substances, including Xanax and oxycodone. Three days later, on March 10, the female presented herself as a patient at the clinic, and Hargrave issued her the painkillers. He was fired within hours.
The seven counts presented by the government related to these two relationships as well as two other individuals with whom Hargrave established non-medical reasons for writing opioid prescriptions.
“We trust our doctors to first do no harm,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon. “In recent years, Charleston County has distributed a higher concentration of opioid pain pills than any other county in the nation, and in 2017, the county had more opioid overdose deaths than any other county in the state. As Dr. Hargrave’s guilty verdict shows, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will vigorously prosecute medical providers who ignore the law—and their ethical obligations—by illegally distributing the deadly drugs fueling this epidemic.”
The maximum penalty Hargrave faces for the illegal distribution of controlled substances is twenty years in federal prison and/or a fine of $1,000,000.
The case was investigated by the DEA Columbia Diversion Group. Assistant United States Attorneys Winston D. Holliday, Jr., and Matthew Austin prosecuted the case.
The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justhinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov. Also, follow DEA Atlanta via Twitter at @DEAATLANTADiv.
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