“Ohio Physician Convicted for Illegally Distributing Opioids: Landmark Case in the Fight Against Addiction”
Introduction: Conviction of Ohio Physician for Opioid Distribution
In a significant legal development, a federal jury in the Southern District of Ohio has handed down a conviction of an Ohio physician for the unlawful distribution of opioids from his clinic.
This conviction marks a milestone in the ongoing battle against the opioid crisis, shedding light on the illicit practices of medical professionals in fueling addiction.
Unlawful Opioid Distribution Scheme
According to court documents and evidence presented during the trial, Thomas Romano, a 73-year-old physician hailing from Wheeling, West Virginia, operated a pain management clinic in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio.
Disturbingly, individuals traveled long distances, often hundreds of miles, to his clinic to obtain prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances. Romano charged exorbitant fees, including $750 for initial visits and $120 for subsequent monthly visits.
What is most alarming is that the prescriptions issued by Romano significantly exceeded recommended dosages and were often combinations of opioids, benzodiazepines, and muscle relaxants—dangerous and life-threatening concoctions that deepened the addiction of his patients.
Conviction and Potential Penalties
The federal jury’s verdict found Romano guilty of 24 counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances, emphasizing that his actions fell outside the bounds of usual professional practice and lacked a legitimate medical purpose.
The conviction pertains to his dealings with nine individuals. For each of these counts, Romano now faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
However, a sentencing date is yet to be determined, with a federal district court judge considering U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors in the decision.
Justice Department and Law Enforcement Agencies
The announcement of this landmark conviction was made jointly by Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio.
They were joined by Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Detroit Division, Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers of the FBI Cincinnati Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge Mario M. Pinto of the Department of Health and Human Service Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG).
This case was meticulously investigated by several law enforcement agencies, including the DEA, FBI, HHS-OIG, as well as the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and Ohio Board of Pharmacy. The collaborative efforts of these agencies played a pivotal role in bringing this case to justice.
Assistant Chief Alexis Gregorian and Trial Attorneys Devon Helfmeyer and Danielle Sakowski of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section led the prosecution of this case.
The Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force
The Fraud Section heads the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force, which was established in late 2018.
ARPO partners with federal and state law enforcement agencies and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across multiple states, including Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia, to prosecute individuals involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids.
Over the past four years, ARPO has charged more than 115 defendants collectively responsible for issuing prescriptions for over 115 million controlled substance pills.
To date, more than 60 ARPO defendants have been convicted, reflecting the significant impact of their efforts in combating the opioid crisis.