Medical Doctor Found Guilty of Illegally Writing Prescriptions for Controlled Substances, including Highly Addictive Opioids
LOS ANGELES – A doctor who operated a medical clinic in Lynwood has been found guilty of drug-trafficking charges after a federal jury found that he issued prescriptions for powerful narcotics and sedatives without a medical purpose for mostly young “patients” who sometimes traveled more than 100 miles to get prescriptions.
Dr. Edward Ridgill, 65, who has residences in Whittier and Newbury Park, was found guilty late yesterday afternoon of 26 felony counts of illegally distributing controlled substances.
The evidence presented during a one-week trial showed that Ridgill illegally prescribed the opioid painkiller hydrocodone, which is often sold under the brand name Norco; alprazolam, best known by the brand name Xanax; and carisoprodol, a muscle relaxer often sold under the brand name Soma.
Prosecutors presented evidence at trial from a California database that tracks prescriptions and “confirms [Ridgill]’s predatory prescribing,” according to court documents that describe young “patients” traveling from Victorville, Palmdale and Desert Hot Springs to obtain prescriptions.
The jury heard that, in 2014 alone, Ridgill wrote nearly 9,000 prescriptions, and 95 percent of those prescriptions were for hydrocodone, alprazolam and carisoprodol, typically for the maximum strength. “The combination of these three drugs is the most sought-after drug cocktail on the black market, and one for which there is no legitimate medical purpose,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
Jurors in the case heard testimony about undercover DEA operatives who received prescriptions from Ridgill in exchange for cash. According to court documents, the testimony showed that Ridgill’s “initial physical exams were cursory, and far from the fulsome type of exam required to justify prescribing high doses of controlled substances.”
Law enforcement authorities executed federal search warrants on Ridgill’s residences and medical office in March 2015. At that time, authorities recovered multiple pre-written prescriptions for controlled substances, as well as cash found lining patient files and stuffed in the drawers containing those files, which prosecutors argued demonstrated that Ridgill operated a cash-for-drugs business.
The jury deliberated for about 30 minutes before finding Ridgill guilty of 26 counts of distributing controlled substances outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. Specifically, Ridgill was convicted of 13 counts of distributing hydrocodone, nine counts of distributing alprazolam, and four counts of distributing carisoprodol.
Ridgill is scheduled to be sentenced on March 19 by United States District Judge S. James Otero. As a result of yesterday’s verdicts, Ridgill faces decades in federal prison, including up to 20 years in prison for six of the counts related to distributing hydrocodone.
The investigation into Ridgill was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad, HIDTA (the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area), the Los Angeles Police Department, the Torrance Police Department and IRS-Criminal Investigation.
The prosecution of Ridgill is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Catharine A. Richmond and Catherine S. Ahn of the General Crimes Section.