Former Pittsburgh physician convicted of 180 counts, including conspiracy to distribute steroids, human growth hormone, oxycodone and OxyContin
A jury convicted former physician Richard Rydze on all 180 charged counts, including conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, oxycodone and OxyContin, said David A. Sierleja, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office.
A sentencing date was not immediately set for Rydze, 67, of Pittsburgh.
“While a physician, Rydze used his prescribing pad in place of his ATM card, doling out steroids to enrich himself and flooding the community with dangerous painkillers,” Sierleja said. “He violated the law, his professional oath, and the trust of his patients.”
“Greed and power often drives criminal activity as evidenced by this indictment, where a physician decided to abuse his medical privileges in order to line his pockets,” Anthony said. “The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue doctors who illegally divert prescription medications.”
Various conduct detailed in the months-long trial spanned from 2005 through 2012.
Rydze was the sole owner of Optimal Health Center LLC (OHC), located at 425 First Avenue, Pittsburgh, which opened in 2007. Prior to OHC, Rydze was involved with other physicians in a joint medical practice known as Diagnostic Medical Associates, according to the indictment.
James Hatzimbes and William Sadowksi previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the case. Hatzimbes owned and operated HSE Salon and Wellness Center, aka HSE Anti-Aging & Wellness Center (HSE), formerly located in a strip mall at 2851 Saw Mill Run, Pittsburgh. It was located in the same strip mall where Hatzimbes owned and operated Hatz’s Solar Eclipse Tanning. Sadowski operated a Pittsburgh pharamacy called ANEWrx, according to court documents.
Together, they facilitated the conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances and, in the case of Sadowski, knowingly facilitated a kickback scheme from which Rydze directly benefitted.
Rydze conspired with others to distribute anabolic steroids, including Stanozolol, Nandrolone Decanoate, Testosterone Enanthate, Testosterone Cypionate, Oxandrolone and testosterone. He unjustly enriched himself by causing the distribution of the steroids for unauthorized uses such as bodybuilding and athletic performance enhancement, according to trial testimony and court documents.
Rydze and Hatzimbes scheduled “steroid clinics” at HSE nearly every other Saturday. Frequently, Rydze would falsely diagnose clients as having hormone imbalance or other conditions, and then knowingly prescribe steroids and human growth hormone, according to court documents.
Rydze and Hatzimbes had a financial relationship in which Rydze charged clients $75 for each visit at HSE, which Rydze and Hatzimbes split equally. Additionally, Hatzimbes received prescriptions for anabolic steroids and human growth hormone from Rydze on numerous occasions, which were filled at ANEWrx, despite no corresponding office appointments, notations or diagnosis to justify the prescriptions, according to court documents and trial testimony.
In early 2007, Rydze met with Sadowski, the co-owner of ANEWrx, and they agreed Rydze would be paid a commission on every prescription for human growth hormone, anabolic steroids and other specific medications filled at ANEWrx. Sadowski then provided Rydze with a list of ANEWrx’s price for each prescription. They agreed to mark up the price for Rydze’s patients, with Sadowski then kicking back additional money to Rydze, according to court documents and trial testimony.
Commission reports prepared by ANEWrx show that between August 2007 and January 2011, Rydze received $301,407 in commission payments. For commissions paid on mark-ups for Rydze’s patients, ANEWrx wrote one check to Rydze for $6,845 and three to OHC for $25,395. Additionally, ANEWrx made 14 deposits into OHC’s account totaling $146,465, according to court documents and trial testimony.
Rydze was also convicted of multiple counts of distribution of anabolic steroids, conspiracy to distribute human growth hormone, distribution of human growth hormone, distribution of controlled substances, obstruction of justice.
Rydze conspired with others to distribute controlled substances, including Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Oxycontin and Opana, according to court documents.
Beginning in 2007, Rydze prescribed the painkillers to Williams Zipf. Later that year, Zipf requested Rydze put the prescriptions in the names of other people, including Zipf’s relatives. At times, Zipf requested Rydze write two prescriptions for him at the same time and leave the date blank on one so Zipf could fill it in later. Zipf took the prescriptions to numerous different pharmacies in order to avoid detection, according to court documents and trial testimony.
Zipf has pleaded guilty to crimes for his role in the case.
From 2005 through 2011, Rydze obtained more than 21,000 pills of Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen, commonly referred to as “Vicodin ES,” by calling in more than 200 prescriptions to Pittsburgh-area pharmacies. He did so by fraudulently and without lawful authority using a DEA registration number that was issued to another physician, and did so without the consent or knowledge of that physician, according to court documents and trial testimony.
The jury also found Rydze corruptly attempted to obstruct justice by calling his brother and asking his brother to lie to federal law enforcement by declaring that some of the diverted opioid prescriptions found in Rydze’s control during the execution of a search warrant were written to the brother. In fact, according to trial testimony and other evidence, the prescription was illegally written to Rydze’s deceased father. His brother refused and testified during the trial of this matter.
A related case accusing Rydze of engaging in widespread health care fraud remains pending.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol M. Skutnik and Brian McDonough following an investigation by the FBI.