Feds bust doctors in $20M opioid conspiracy
Detroit — Five people, including two doctors, were indicted Wednesday and accused of running a $20 million conspiracy that fueled the country's opioid epidemic.
Dr. Michelle Ritter, 60, of Commerce Township, and Dr. Charise Valentine, 62, of Southfield, participated in a conspiracy that started in June 2016, according to the indictment.
Along with Iris Winchester, 48, of Oak Park, who owned and operated Orthopedic Medical Building Inc., the doctors conspired to issue and dispense a large amount of prescription opioids to fake patients who did not have a legitimate medical need, according to the indictment.
“Our unwavering commitment to prosecuting these types of offenses should send a strong message to those who may want to flood our communities with these highly addictive drugs," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement Wednesday.
Winchester accepted only cash and charged patients based on the quantity, type and dosage of prescription opioids, according to the government.
The doctors primarily prescribed oxycodone and oxymorphone, two addictive opioids that have high street values.
Oxycodone, for example, sells for $17-$22 per pill in Detroit. In Kentucky and Ohio, where there is higher demand, the pills sell for at least $45, according to the government.
Winchester had help, according to the indictment.
Her employee, Kristina Brown, 30, of Dearborn Heights, helped create fraudulent medical records for the phony patients, according to the government.
A fifth person, Joyce Robinson, 62, of Detroit, recruited patients and worked with other recruiters to steer people to the medical clinic, the government alleged.
Robinson would fill the prescriptions and sell the drugs on the street at a significant profit, according to the indictment.
In all, the doctors issued more than 674,500 doses of opioids during the conspiracy. The drugs had a street value of more than $20 million.
“We have a genuine and devastating epidemic of opiate abuse in this country which is compounded by those that prey on the vulnerable,” FBI Detroit Special Agent in Charge Timothy Slater said in a statement.