Major Illegal Distributor of Prescription Painkillers Changes Plea to Guilty After Government Begins Presenting Evidence at Trial
PITTSBURGH - A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, distribution and possession with the intent to distribute oxycodone or oxymorphone, conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and oxymorphone, and felon in possession of firearms, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
William Richardson, age 57, pleaded guilty to eight counts before United States District Judge Mark Hornak.
"William Richardson was among Pittsburgh’s largest illegal distributors of the prescription painkillers oxycodone and Opana, and the crime he perpetrated can be described as taxpayer-funded drug dealing," stated U.S. Attorney Brady. "We have made the aggressive prosecution of opioid traffickers our top priority. Whether you are illegally selling opioids on the street or the Darkweb, or from a doctor’s office, we will find and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law."
"We will continue to investigate and take action against those who commit health care fraud," said Special Agent in Charge Robert Jones. "We’re all victims of this crime. The community sees more dangerous, addictive drugs on the streets and the Medicaid and Medicare system taxpayers fund is cheated. That's why the FBI will use every investigative technique possible to stop these types of crimes from happening."
"Individuals responsible for the reckless distribution of powerful opioids and those that abuse taxpayer-funded insurance programs must be held accountable," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Jonathan A. Wilson. "DEA, along with our federal, state and local partners, will continue to make these cases a priority as part of our commitment to ensuring the safety and health of our communities".
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Richardson coordinated with numerous individuals who sold to him, for redistribution, oxycodone and oxymorphone that those individuals had acquired through taxpayer-funded medical insurance programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Richardson also acquired prescription opiate medication from Kavon Dawkins, a large-scale illegal opiate pill distributor from Detroit, Michigan, and through obtaining opiate pills through his own opiate-pill prescriptions, which he obtained fraudulently.
In August 2014, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police arranged for three controlled purchases from Richardson, and on August 15, 2014, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police executed a search warrant at Richardson’s home and seized his inventory of oxycodone and oxymorphone pills, along with five firearms. Prior to August 15, 2014, Richardson had been convicted of numerous felony offenses and he was therefore precluded from possessing firearms under federal law. After his arrest by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and while on house arrest pending the disposition of those charges, Richardson continued to distribute large quantities of oxycodone and oxymorphone.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted an investigation of Richardson that included, among other investigative techniques, intercepting the communications of Richardson and his conspirators. Those communications revealed that Richardson, on a nearly continuous basis, was selling oxycodone and oxymorphone from his home. That investigation led to the execution of a second search warrant at Richardson’s home on June 7, 2016, which led to the seizure of Richardson’s inventory of oxycodone and oxymorphone, along with cash and a cellular telephone used during Richardson’s pill distribution business.
Richardson’s trial began on Thursday September 6, 2018, but Richardson elected to change his plea to guilty after the government began to present its evidence. The investigation led to the conviction of 15 other individuals, including Dawkins and Antoinette Adair, who was, at one time, a major pill distributor from Pittsburgh’s East End and the dismantlement of Richardson’s extensive pill-distribution network. Both Richardson and Adair were former patients of Dr. Oliver Herndon, who supplied both Richardson and Adair with large amounts of oxycodone. Herndon was previously convicted in connection with illegally supplying individuals like Adair and Richardson with opiate pills
The law provides for a total sentence of 180 years in prison, a fine of $10,750,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorneys Brendan T. Conway and Jeffrey Bengel are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the Castle Shannon and New Castle Police departments, and the Michigan State Police, conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Richardson.