A doctor who worked in Johnson County admitted Monday that he illegally wrote prescriptions for 50,000 pain pills.
Richard W. Albert, 64, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Pikeville to conspiring to distribute drugs, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey.
Abuse of prescription drugs is a widespread problem in Eastern Kentucky and other parts of the state.
Albert wrote prescriptions at several locations, including the Care More Management LLC clinic in Paintsville and his home, from October 2008 to February 2011.
Authorities raided his house and other places in February 2011 and shut him down.
Albert said in his plea agreement that he conspired with other people to illegally dispense pills. No one else has been indicted in the case.
However, the investigation is continuing, according to Kyle Edelen, spokesman for Harvey's office.
Albert is to be sentenced April 18. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
He also agreed to forfeit more than $500,000 to the federal government.
Albert acknowledged that the money, which authorities seized from his bank and investment accounts, resulted from his illegal activity, according to a news release.
The 50,000 pills Albert helped pour into the black market were 10-milligram Percocets, according to his plea agreement.
Albert often wrote prescriptions for 40 to 50 people a day, typically after doing little or no examination, in return for a cash payment of $200 on the initial visit, court records say.
On subsequent visits, people could get a prescription without Albert even seeing them, the plea agreement said.
Authorities began investigating Albert in early 2009, when he worked at Care More Management, after nearby business people complained about large numbers of people loitering in the parking lot who appeared to be impaired.
A technician at a nearby MRI business told police that nearly all of Albert's patients had state-issued medical cards and that at least 90 percent didn't really need medicine.
Police later had undercover informants and officers obtain prescriptions from Albert.
Albert's business, a so-called "pill mill," was lucrative, according to court records.
In September 2009, Care More was generating enough cash to pay Albert $8,500 a week, an owner told police, according to Albert's plea agreement.
By August 2010, when Albert was working at a different office owned by a business called Second Street Enterprises, he was making $17,000 to $21,000 a week, not counting what he made seeing people at other locations, according to the court record.
Paintsville police, the Kentucky Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigated the case.