News Release
Date: August 27, 2009
Contact: Melissa Bell
Number: 202-616-4740

Former Mercer County Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Federal
Drug Charge

Danny Ray Wills
Danny Ray Wills

AUG 27 -- BECKLEY, WV – The former Sheriff of Mercer County pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Thomas E. Johnston to a one-count Information charging him with fraudulently obtaining and possessing hydrocodone. Danny Ray Wills, 63, of Bluefield, WV, is also a medical doctor. According to court documents and at the plea hearing, Wills admitted that, during his tenure as sheriff, he ordered and obtained 4,500 hydrocodone pills from General Injections and Vaccines (GIV) located in Bastien, Virginia, and paid for them with proceeds from the Mercer County Concealed Weapons Permit Fund. Wills had the pills shipped to the sheriff’s office in Princeton, WV. The hydrocodone was to be dispensed to “patients.”

On May 5, 2009, a DEA Administrative Inspection Warrant was served on Wills at his sheriff’s office seeking records required to be kept by dispensing physicians and a count of the hydrocodone on hand. Agents located a total of 173 hydrocodone tablets in a locked cabinet and in Wills’ possession. Wills admitted to agents that he had been taking up to 4-6 of the hydrocodone pills daily for about two years. Wills further stated that he had practiced medicine in his sheriff’s office, and that he had dispensed hydrocodone to his patients. Agents seized 86 patient files from Wills pursuant to the DEA warrant. The files revealed that a total of only 31 hydrocodone pills had been dispensed to three patients. Further, correspondence between GIV and Wills in January 2009 indicated that GIV had questioned Wills about his excess/atypical hydrocodone orders. In response, Wills assured GIV that he was acquiring the hydrocodone to dispense to his patients. Wills did not advise GIV that he was taking any of the hydrocodone himself. Wills also admitted to agents that he had written prescriptions for alprazolam, also known as Xanax, a schedule IV controlled substance, in the names of his wife and his son, but that he had actually intended to, and did in fact, obtain and use the Xanax himself. Information obtained from the West Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program indicated that prescriptions for 1,400 alprazolam pills were issued by Wills in his son’s name.

“Prescription drug abuse is a serious concern in West Virginia and across the country,” stated Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Ava Cooper-Davis. “DEA is committed to bringing all those, like former Sheriff Wills, who violate the law and public trust to justice. We will not tolerate anyone poisoning our communities, whether it be doctors, pharmacists, a street dealer or even law enforcement.”

It is a Federal crime even for medical doctors to obtain prescription drugs by misrepresentation, fraud, deception and subterfuge. United States Attorney Charles T. Miller stated, “Law enforcement officers take an oath to uphold the law. Sheriff Wills committed this crime from the sheriff’s office and dishonored his oath. This conviction should send a clear message that no one is above the law.”

Wills faces up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on December 14, 2009. The investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, West Virginia State Police, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Monica K. Schwartz is handling the prosecution.

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