Four Montgomery County doctors have been arrested over the last seven months on charges of illegally prescribing opioid medications to drug users and dealers, authorities said Wednesday, linking one of the physicians to nine overdose deaths.
Lawrence I. Miller, a family medicine practitioner who worked out of a Walnut Street office in Lansdale, was arrested Wednesday morning, said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele at a news conference. Joseph F. Cipriano, 56, of Norristown, was arrested in July; Brian C. Keeley, 61, of Ambler, was arrested in May; and Joseph M. Rybicki, 59, of Haddonfield, was arrested with his wife, Anne, 57, in February.
All were charged with multiple counts of unlawful prescribing. Miller, Cipriano, and Keeley were charged with running a corrupt organization and related offenses.
The investigation is ongoing. The doctors' licenses have either been suspended or are under investigation, officials said.
"I anticipate, unfortunately, that there will be more [arrests]," Steele said. "We are actively investigating other physicians that come to our attention." Steele said tipsters had alerted police to potential suspicious activity at local doctors' offices. He skirted answering if pharmacists were part of the tipster pool, citing confidentiality.
Miller, of Warminster, saw some patients only for a short time or never saw them at all, but nevertheless wrote single prescriptions for more than 500 opioid painkiller pills for certain people, Steele said.
Nine of Miller's patients died of drug overdoses shortly after they received a script from him, Steele said, but the physician has not been charged in those deaths.
"They're wearing white coats. They're doctors. … Make no mistake — they were peddling poison," Steele said.
Cipriano, who worked out of his own Dekalb Street office in Norristown, took advantage of women addicted to drugs by enticing them with the possibility of medications like Oxycodone, Adderall, benzodiazepines, and cough syrup in exchange for nude pictures, videos, and other sexual favors, Steele said.
Cipriano's female patients would then contact him over social media — often Snapchat — to ask for prescriptions, Steele said, and Cipriano would issue electronic pharmaceutical scripts or leave them in his mailbox. Cipriano also fraudulently billed Medicaid for a female patient who was in jail, authorities said.
Keeley, a family medicine practitioner with an office at Ambler Family Practice, on Cavalier Drive, would provide prescriptions for Xanax, Adderall, Ambien, and Percocet as requested by his patients, Steele said. Keeley allegedly charged $180 for writing a prescription for a one-month supply.
Rybicki, who practiced family medicine out of a Grasshopper Road office in Lower Moreland, enlisted his wife's help to mail opioids and other medications to patients, Steele said, all without having ever seen them for a doctor's appointment. Rybicki took monthly fees in exchange for the medications, authorities said.
Rybicki also wrote opioid prescriptions for himself several times with the purpose of abusing them, according to the District Attorney's Office, but he wrote the prescriptions in his daughter's name.