A total of more than $1.5 million has been seized from pill mill operators

Last updated: December 16. 2013 4:59PM - 2746 Views
Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

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Rachel Baldwin


WILLIAMSON - The final installment of the property and cash seized from Mountain Medical Care Clinic, a “pill mill” that was shut down in 2010, was officially presented to the West Virginia State Police on Monday morning, during a press conference held by West Virginia U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.

The Williamson office building that formerly housed the clinic, along with more than $340,000 in cash forfeited by one of its operators, now will belong to the state police.

Goodwin, joined by U.S. Marshal John Foster, Federal Bureau of Investigation Senior Supervisory Resident Agent in Charge Chris Courtright and other members of law enforcement, presented West Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. C.R. “Jay” Smithers with a check for $341,937.61 Monday in front of the former West Third Avenue pill mill, shut down in 2010 following an extensive federal investigation that ended with several criminal convictions.

“This pill mill did enormous harm across a wide swath of Mingo County and beyond,” Goodwin said. “Now we’ve put its operators in prison and hit them in the pocketbook, to the tune of more than $1.5 million.”

Goodwin added, “A few years back, I made a commitment to go after pill dealers, along with the proceeds generated from their illegal activities. Today’s announcement is a result of that commitment. Every time we put a pill mill out of business, it’s a big step toward getting this district’s biggest crime problem under control.”

“In all my years of collective service in law enforcement, I have never witnessed such teamwork and tremendous group effort as I did between the WVSP, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals during this investigation,” Smithers said.

“When we first began, you could drive through this town on any day of the week and see people lined up down the street waiting to get in to the clinic,” Smithers said. “The line would remind you of one outside a civic center where people were standing in line to get front-row seats for a concert.”

When asked what the funds from this seizure would be used for, Smithers said they would be used for cruisers and equipment to further the fight against drugs and related crimes within the state.

A final order of forfeiture was entered in federal court in Charleston on Oct. 23 in the civil forfeiture case against Myra Miller, which concluded all forfeiture cases linked to Mountain Medical.

Miller, a former office manager at Mountain Medical, agreed to forfeit her interest in the clinic’s two commercial buildings valued at approximately $610,000, along with $475,823.75 in cash seized from her residence. Miller, 50, of South Williamson, Ky., previously pleaded guilty in March to misusing a Drug Enforcement Administration registration number that belonged to her former boss, Mingo County doctor William F. Ryckman. Miller, who gave out prescriptions for powerful narcotics in exchange for cash from individuals at Mountain Medical, was sentenced in September to six months in federal prison.

Dr. Ryckman, 66, was convicted in March 2012 for his role in the conspiracy. Ryckman was sentenced to six months in prison followed by one year of supervised release for conspiracy to misuse his DEA registration number. From Feb. 17, until Feb. 19, 2010, Ryckman caused numerous controlled substances to be prescribed to people he had not even seen, using his DEA registration number.

A total of $413,050.89 from a Mountain Medical bank account listed in Ryckman’s name has been seized and forfeited by federal authorities.

In a separate case, former Mingo County doctor Diane E. Shafer forfeited $134,550. Shafer, 60, was previously sentenced in September 2012 to six months in prison for conspiracy to misuse her DEA registration number. She also prescribed powerful narcotics to individuals she did not examine.

Records indicate that, between 2003 and early 2010, Shafer wrote more than 118,000 prescriptions for controlled substances. Though she was a solo practitioner, Shafer, by herself, wrote more prescriptions for controlled substances than several West Virginia hospitals did during that period.

The government also seized $88,029 from former Mingo County practitioner Katherine Hoover, who did not work at Mountain Medical but had close ties to several employees at the clinic. She has not been charged criminally to date and is believed to still be out of the country.

A total of $1,586,903.72 in assets held by former employees, clinic bank accounts and related commercial property tied to the former Williamson clinic have been forfeited to the government.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the federal government and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims.

Forfeited assets are deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund and Department of Treasury Forfeiture Fund and are used to restore funds to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes.

The criminal cases were investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the West Virginia State Police, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Inspector General.

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