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

June 1, 2012

Rhode Island Surgeon & Physician Technician Plead Guilty, Sentenced for Distributing Approximately 29,000 Prescription Pills

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A former orthopedic surgeon and a former orthopedic technician pleaded guilty and were sentenced in federal court in Providence today for participating in a conspiracy in which approximately 29,000 prescription pills obtained with fraudulent prescriptions written by the former doctor were distributed. The two men admitted that they provided fraudulent prescriptions to a number of individuals employed at Rhode Island Hospital who, in return, provided some of the pills to the defendants.

Dr. Robert Villarreal, 33, of Boston, was sentenced to six months in federal prison to be followed by four years of supervised release. Villarreal was ordered to serve the first 12 months of supervised release in community confinement at the Coolidge House in Boston. Gary Menissian, 49, of East Providence, R.I., was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release.

The sentences were announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha and Kevin L. Lane, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New England field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented, “Physicians are entrusted with the responsibility for prescribing controlled substances.  When they abuse that trust, rather than protecting public health, they endanger it.  The abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States.  This office, working with the DEA, our other federal law enforcement partners, the Rhode Island State Police, and local police departments, will continue to aggressively identify and prosecute all those, including irresponsible physicians and other health care providers, who unlawfully contribute to this epidemic.”

The latest statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration show that in 2009, 7 million Americans a month abused prescription drugs for non-medical purposes; a 13 percent increase from a year earlier. According to the Center for Disease Control, prescription drugs, including opioids and antidepressants, are responsible for more overdose deaths than “street drugs” such as cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines.

Appearing before U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith, Robert Villarreal admitted that between June and August 2011, he provided fraudulent prescriptions to numerous individuals employed at Rhode Island Hospital and to Gary Menissian for dextroamphetamine, hydrocodone and oxycodone. After having the prescriptions filled, the individuals would provide some of the pills to Villarreal and to Menissian. Villarreal also admitted that he forged prescriptions in the name of other doctors which he presented to area pharmacies.

Menissian admitted to the court that he provided fraudulent prescriptions written by Villarreal to individuals employed at Rhode Island Hospital. In return, the individuals would have the prescriptions filled and would provide some of the pills to him or to Villarreal. He also filled some of the prescriptions himself.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra R. Hebert and Adi Goldstein.

The matter was 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.

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Contact: 401-709-5357
USARI.Media@usdoj.gov

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