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News Release
U.S. Department of Justice
Peter F. Neronha
United States Attorney
District of Rhode Island

August 3, 2011


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Rhode Island orthopedic surgeon and an orthopedic assistant made initial appearances in federal court in Providence Tuesday, charged with fraudulently obtaining, distributing and dispensing prescription drugs; announced U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha and Steven W. Derr, special agent in charge of the New England field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Dr. Robert Villarreal, 33, of Boston, and Gary Menissian, 49, of Providence, were charged by Criminal Complaint with obtaining controlled substances by fraud or forgery; distributing and dispensing controlled substances; and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

According to an Affidavit in support of the Criminal Complaint filed with the U.S. District Court, it is alleged that Dr. Villarreall forged prescriptions for himself, and several employees at Rhode Island Hospital.  In return for doing so, the employees would allegedly fill the prescriptions and then return the pills to the doctor.  Other times, it is alleged, Dr. Villarreal would write prescriptions to some employees, but then provide them to Gary Menissian, who would then return the pills to Dr. Villarreall.  Both are employed at Rhode Island Hospital.

According to the Affidavit, an agent from the DEA learned in June that Dr. Villarreal was allegedly filling prescriptions for Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, and Ativan pills at various pharmacies in the Providence area. Records obtained by the DEA showed at least 55 prescriptions were allegedly presented to area pharmacies by Dr. Villarreal beginning in July 2009, and up until at least June 21, 2011, often times just days apart. The Affidavit alleges that the prescriptions were written on prescription pads from Rhode Island Hospital and were allegedly forged with the signature of a former member of the medical staff.

The Affidavit also alleges that DEA agents learned through their investigation that several individuals were allegedly filling prescriptions for Adderall, Percocet and Vicodin allegedly authorized by Dr. Villarreal. It is alleged in the Affidavit that, on numerous occasions, the individuals allegedly turned the pills over to Dr. Villarreal and Gary Menissian. Records obtained by the DEA show at least 89 prescriptions filled at various pharmacies from July 2009 through June 2011.

This matter is being investigated by the DEA's Tactical Diversion Squad, which is comprised of investigators from DEA, as well as from the Burlington, North Andover, Westborough, Worcester, Douglas, Wellesley, and Plainville Massachusetts police departments.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra Hebert and Adi Goldstein.

Dr. Robert Villarreal and Gary Menissian were released on unsecured bond after making initial appearances Wednesday before U.S. District Court Magistrate Lincoln D. Almond.

A Criminal Complaint is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Contact: 401-709-5357

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