Medical Doctor Who Illegally Wrote Prescriptions – including for Highly Addictive Opioids – Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
LOS ANGELES – A doctor who operated a medical clinic in Lynwood was sentenced today to 60 months in federal prison for illegally issuing prescriptions for powerful narcotics and sedatives without a medical purpose, mostly for young “patients” who paid cash.
Dr. Edward Ridgill, 65, a resident of Indio, California, was sentenced by United States District Judge S. James Otero.
During today’s hearing, Judge Otero said, “With all due respect to Dr. Ridgill, he is not a doctor. He has a license to practice, [but] he is not practicing medicine.” The judge also noted Ridgill’s prior history of improperly writing prescriptions, which “reveals he has not learned his lesson from the past.”
Today’s sentencing follows a one-week trial late last year in which a federal jury found Ridgill guilty of 26 felony counts of illegally distributing controlled substances. Prosecutors presented evidence 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. Young “patients” traveled from places as far away as Victorville, Palmdale and Desert Hot Springs to Ridgill’s clinic in order to obtain prescriptions from Ridgill, where his “illegal drug business enabled him to work a mere three hours a day at his Lynwood office in exchange for significant amounts of cash,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors.
During the trial, the jury heard that, in 2014 alone, Ridgill wrote nearly 9,000 prescriptions, and the vast majority of those prescriptions were for hydrocodone, alprazolam and carisoprodol, typically for the maximum strength. Jurors also heard testimony about undercover DEA operatives who received prescriptions from Ridgill in exchange for cash. In 2014 alone, Ridgill physically deposited more than $175,000 in 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.”
A medical expert who reviewed a host of records related to this case determined that Ridgill “prescribed massive amounts of the same three controlled substances charged in this case – hydrocodone, alprazolam, and carisoprodol – to individuals who sometimes traveled long distances to obtain repeated prescriptions from defendant, at relatively young ages to be validly seeking such high dosages of pain medication, in large volumes over short periods of time.”
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 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 approximately 30 minutes in December 2017 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.
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 was handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Catherine S. Ahn and Catharine A. Richmond of the General Crimes Section.