CASE UPDATE: Westmoreland County Doctor Pleads Guilty to Illegally Writing 332 Prescriptions for Hydrocodone

September 18, 2018 | Topic: Criminal

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that a former Westmoreland County doctor, who was charged in October 2017 with illegally writing and filling 332 prescriptions in family members’ names for the narcotic Hydrocodone, pleaded guilty to felony charges before Westmoreland County Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio.

A joint investigation by the Office of Attorney General, the Westmoreland County Drug Task Force and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency found that Dr. Ralph A. Capone, 65, of Greensburg, PA, illegally diverted 268 prescriptions for Hydrocodone syrup, 38 prescriptions for Hydromet syrup and 26 prescriptions for Hydrocodone pills between October 2014 and September 2017. He wrote the prescriptions in the names of his mother, brother, wife, children and himself, and filled them at local pharmacies without family members’ knowledge.

“This doctor fraudulently obtained prescription drugs for personal use by using the names of his family members, at times even his mother,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “These kinds of illegal diversions of prescription drugs are fueling the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania. We will continue to prosecute anyone who illegally abuses prescription drugs, including doctors and other health care professionals.”

Under Pennsylvania law, physicians are prohibited from prescribing controlled substances to themselves or immediate family members except in emergency situations. Following a recent search warrant at his home, Capone admitted he wrote and filled the prescriptions for personal use.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Tomm Mutschler. A sentencing hearing for Capone is tentatively scheduled for October 27. Capone previously surrendered his Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) license.

Studies show that 80 percent of persons addicted to heroin started by abusing prescription drugs. Since Attorney General Shapiro took office, the Office of Attorney General has arrested an average of 4.5 drug dealers every day. In 2017, Office of Attorney General agents charged 216 persons for illegally diverting prescription drugs – a 72 percent increase over the previous year. So far this year, the office has collected and destroyed 33 tons of unused medications, on pace to surpass drug destruction totals from 2017.

“We’re fighting this epidemic on every front – from the dealers on street corners to doctors and nurses diverting drugs to the board rooms of pharmaceutical companies,” Attorney General Shapiro said.

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