Indictment charges Paintsville doctor with distributing pain pills

Asked informants for cash

bestep@herald-leader.comJuly 12, 2011 

A doctor at a Paintsville pain clinic conspired to illegally distribute drugs by writing prescriptions without a real medical need to do so, a federal grand jury has charged.

Richard W. Albert saw dozens of patients a day, issuing them prescriptions for pain pills and other narcotics with little or no examination at times, an investigator said in a court document.

Albert's alleged "pill mill" operation generated a lot of cash; his weekly pay was $17,000 to $21,000 in January 2011, according to a sworn statement by Lynne Thompson, an investigator assigned to a federal drug task force.

During an earlier undercover visit, Albert had asked an informant for $200 cash, "and stated this was the fun part," Thompson said in the statement.

A grand jury indicted Albert on one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs without a legitimate medical purpose between January 2008 and Feb. 16, 2011 — the day authorities raided his house and a clinic where he'd worked.

The indictment, filed Friday, includes a forfeiture count under which the government seeks to take more than $530,000 that Albert had in various bank and investment accounts. That money resulted directly or indirectly from his illegal activities, the indictment charges.

Albert is to be arraigned next week in Pikeville. His attorney, Burl McCoy of Lexington, was not available for comment Monday.

The indictment said Albert conspired with unnamed other people in the case.

Thompson, an officer with the state Attorney General's Office, said she began investigating Albert in January 2009, when he worked at Care More Pain Management, a pain clinic that was in a strip shopping center in Paintsville.

Paintsville police contacted the Attorney General's Office after checking complaints from other tenants about excessive traffic at the clinic and people congregating in the parking lot who appeared to be on drugs, Thompson said.

Authorities conducted surveillance at the clinic and saw people who limped or staggered into the clinic, and then came out later with prescriptions and no limp or stagger, Thompson said. The implication was that the people were faking injuries to get drugs.

In 2009 and 2010, an informant, plus Thompson and other officers working undercover, got prescriptions for pain pills and other drugs from Albert a number of times.

Albert did perfunctory exams, lasting two minutes or less, on the undercover officers the first time he saw them, but on follow-up visits, he gave them prescriptions with no exams and no medical questions, Thompson said in her statement.

Albert left the Care More clinic in October 2009 after an investigator met with two of the listed owners, Tammy Cantrell and Shelby Lackey, but kept seeing patients at another office in Staffordsville or at his home, Thompson said.

The informant counted 68 people in the waiting room at Albert's office during a January 2010 visit, according to the affidavit.

On Easter Sunday 2010, Albert had prescriptions for the informant already filled out when the informant and an undercover officer went to his home that evening, Thompson said.

Later, in June, Albert picked up the informant and undercover officers at the parking lot of a grocery store in Paintsville and took them to his house, explaining that neighbors had been complaining about traffic and the police were watching his house and stopping people as they left.

Inside, the informant saw stacks of money on the stairs, and Albert threw sheets of paper with medical information from the undercover officers on the floor, Thompson said.

Thompson swore out the affidavit as part of the investigation.

Albert was charged in May, but the complaint was initially sealed.

He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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