NORRISTOWN, Pa. (WTXF) - The Montgomery County District Attorney's office announced the arrests of four area doctors as part of an ongoing pill mill investigation.
Arrested Wednesday was 48-year-old Lawrence Miller, whose medical office is based out of Lansdale. Previously arrested on unrelated charges were 56-year-old Joseph Cipriano, whose home medical office is located in Norristown, 61-year-old Brian Keeley, whose medical office is in Ambler, and 59-year-old Joseph Rybicki, whose medical office is in Lower Moreland Township.
"These four physicians who we investigated and arrested were not upholding their legal or ethical obligations as doctors," said Steele. "By not following long-established standards of care, these defendants were contributing to the heroin-opioid epidemic and making it worse."
Officials cite the misuse of opioid prescription medications as a major factor in the pathway to addiction. The CDC estimates that four out of five heroin users previously misused prescription opioids.
All four physicians are currently unable to prescribe controlled substances as a result of their arrests.
"We must stem the tide of deaths and the pain caused by heroin and opioid addiction through every avenue possible," said Steele.
"Dirty doctors--who run pill mills by selling scripts, who provide drugs to addicted people, who are operating outside of the legal bounds of recognized prescribing methods and quantities--are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Not only are they engaging in criminal behavior, but they are profiting from someone's addiction and pain, and making this epidemic worse. It's got to stop."
Below is comprehensive overview of the four physicians and their respective charges.
Lawrence Miller was charged with multiple counts of unlawful prescribing, prescribing to drug dependent persons and related offenses.
Investigators say Miller's practice became a "drug magnet" for patients with substance use disorder.
"He prescribed large amounts of controlled substances to patients with little to no accompanying medical treatment," the district attorney's office said.
Authorities discovered that nine of Miller's patients had died of drug overdoses. Although most died from a combination of drugs, including street drugs, the deceased received prescriptions for controlled substances from Miller in close proximity to their deaths. For some patients, Miller would reportedly issue single prescriptions of more than 500 pills of opioid painkillers. Investigators say several drug dealers also obtained narcotics from Miller.
Miller's bail was set at $100,000 unsecured. He has waived his preliminary hearing.
Joseph Cipriano, who was arrested in July 2018, was charged with multiple accounts of unlawful prescribing, prescribing to drug dependent persons, welfare fraud, insurance fraud and related offenses.
Investigators say Cipriano prescribed large amounts of controlled substances to several female patients in exchange for nude photographs, videos or sexual favors. Some would allegedly request prescriptions -- including Oxycodone, Adderall, benzodiazepines and promethazine cough syrup -- from Cipriano via social media, usually Snapchat.
According to prosecutors, while one female patient was incarcerated, Cipriano charged Medicaid for several office visits that did not occur and issued opioid prescriptions that were filled by family or friends.
Cipriano's bail was set at $200,000 unsecured. A preliminary hearing is slated for Thursday, Sept. 13.
Brian Keeley, who was arrested in May 2018, was charged with multiple counts of unlawful prescribing, insurance fraud and welfare fraud, among related offenses.
Investigators say Keeley was providing prescriptions for cash. Authorities say they also found unsafe and unsterile office conditions, including carpets stained with animal excrement and patient injectables, and other medical products stored improperly in a refrigerator with rotting animal food.
Keeley's bail was set at $50,000 unsecured. His trial date has not been set at this time.
Joseph Rybicki, who was arrested in February 2018, was charged with multiple counts of unlawful prescribing and fraud, among related offenses. His wife, Anne, was also allegedly involved in the medical practice and faces criminal charges.
Prosecutors say that in October 2015, Rybicki was evicted from his medical practice in Philadelphia. At that time, he allegedly prescribed patients with hundreds of prescriptions for controlled substances through the mail in exchange for a monthly fee.
Rybicki also wrote opioid prescriptions for his own personal use for the sole purpose of abusing the medication, according to the district attorney's office. Prosecutors say Rybicki issued the prescriptions in his daughter's name to conceal their purpose.
Rybicki's bail was set at $50,000 unsecured. A trial date has not been set.