SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state doctor has been sentenced to four years in prison for a scheme in which she hired drug addicts and gave them blank prescription scripts for opioid pain medications and other controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose, according to federal prosecutors.
Dr. Janet Arnold owned Desert Wind Family Practice in Richland, Washington, and with her co-conspirators “pushed thousands of pills on the street to be abused by addicts, and potentially caused others to become addicted to controlled substances,” prosecutors said.
“Dr. Arnold contributed to an epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction in Washington,” said Vanessa Waldref, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, on Wednesday. “With the stroke of a pen, Dr. Arnold fueled the addiction of people to opioids.”
Arnold, 63, is the third of five defendants to be sentenced in the case. David Nay, 43, of Kennewick, Washington, was sentenced to 78 months in prison. Lisa Marie Cooper, 55, of Prosser, Washington, was sentenced to two years in prison.
Prosecutors said Arnold’s receptionist would fill out prescription orders for highly addictive drugs, including fentanyl and oxycodone, both for real and fake patients.
Arnold pre-signed hundreds of blank prescription scripts, prosecutors said.
Arnold’s attorneys contended she was manipulated by others, including her office manager, who was an addict and drug dealer, according to court documents. Arnold was not fully aware of the extent of the actions of her co-defendants in the case, and was “willfully blind” to the drug dealing with her prescription scripts, rather than “willfully participating,” said her attorney Paul Shelton.
But U.S. District Court Senior Judge Edward Shea said Arnold’s actions were calculated.
Shea was baffled by why she had a Washington state license to practice as a physician before her practice was raided in 2017.
In 2004 she had been accused of prescribing large quantities of narcotics to patients, including 500 to 750 tablets of oxycodone at once to one patient. Her license was suspended from 2006 to late 2007 before she successfully applied for reinstatement, convincing the licensing board she had reformed, Shea said. Arnold’s license was suspended again shortly after the May 2017 DEA raid of Desert Winds Family Practice and then permanently revoked.
Arnold has never confronted her culpability in the distribution of narcotics, instead blaming her office manager and minimizing her role, Shea said. It was no surprise that she hired addicts and then they acted like addicts, he said.
He also sentenced her to three years supervised release, but issued no fine, saying she had no money to pay it.
Arnold’s attorneys had asked Shea to sentence her to five years probation, including up to two years of home confinement, rather than prison time. Arnold has no previous criminal history and cannot repeat her crime without a medical license, they said.
Prosecutors had asked for a nine-year prison sentence for Arnold.