GA doctor indicted in AL for unlawful prescription drug distribution, other charges

GA doctor indicted in AL for unlawful prescription drug distribution, other charges

MONTGOMERY, AL (WTVM) - A Georgia doctor who had a doctor's office in Phenix City, AL was indicted by the Middle District of Alabama on Thursday on numerous charges, including allegations that he used his office as a "pill mill."

Dr. Robert M. Ritchea, 53, of LaGrange, GA, was arrested following his indictment by a federal grand jury, announced George L. Beck, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.

Ritchea was charged with drug distribution and money laundering, stemming from allegations that Ritchea was operating a "pill mill" from his Phenix City family medical practice. It is alleged that Ritchea used the office as a medical clinic created to dispense controlled substances "inappropriately, unlawfully, and for non-medical reasons."

The indictments claims Ritchea was writing prescriptions for Schedule II pain medications, such as hydrocodone and methadone, knowing that the people obtaining them did not have medical reasons to have them.

"Dr. Ritchea used the proceeds of his pill mill to purchase Schedule II pain medication - specifically, hydromorphone and hydrocodone - directly from a drug manufacturer," the Middle District's statement says. "With these pills, Dr. Ritchea was able to fill his patients' unlawful and unnecessary prescriptions, without using a pharmacy."

Ritchea faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each count, in addition to monetary penalties and restitution. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In 2010, Ritchea was the subject of an 80-page civil complaint from the U.S. Attorney's office, accusing the doctor of defrauding the government in faulty Medicare claims. The complaint claimed that Ritchea over-billed Medicare more than $2.2 million with 4,300 claims during a four-year time frame.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration'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.

Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and Rand N. Neeley are prosecuting the case.

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