CHARLESTON – A former Logan County doctor who was charged in a federal indictment for operating a pill mill was sentenced Tuesday in Charleston.
Dr. Fernando Gonzales-Ramos, 47, was sentenced to five years and eleven months in prison. Gonzales-Ramos had previously pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose. The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. in Charleston.
“Dr. Gonzales-Ramos wasn’t operating a doctor’s office, he was running a drug den,” said U.S. Attorney Goodwin. “His so-called office had no exam table, no running water, and not even so much as a stethoscope. For thousands of dollars in cash, he was pumping out prescriptions for thousands of units of powerful narcotics.”
Gonzales-Ramos, who practiced medicine in Logan before moving to Texas in July 2011, began making trips from Texas to West Virginia approximately every three months to operate a cash-only business in Logan. At the time, Gonzales-Ramos also hired a commercial security guard who was armed with a firearm to protect his phony Logan County office.
On March 2, 2013, an individual cooperating with the FBI entered the building that Gonzales-Ramos used as an office and paid $450 cash in exchange for a prescription for the painkiller hydrocodone. Prior to obtaining the prescription, the cooperating individual had not been examined or questioned by anyone. The cooperating individual obtained the prescription from Gonzales-Ramos’s office in less than three minutes.
On March 3, 2013, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant on the building located at 2130 Old Logan Road in Logan. During the execution of the warrant, agents found several individuals waiting inside to get written prescriptions for controlled substances from Gonzales-Ramos. Law enforcement agents also determined that the office lacked an exam table, running water and medical equipment.
From September 2011 through March 3, 2013, Gonzales-Ramos ran a cash-only business at the Logan County office where he charged patients $450 for Schedule III controlled substance prescriptions and $500 for Schedule II controlled substance prescriptions. After collecting the cash payments, Gonzales-Ramos directed an associate to make cash deposits into his personal bank accounts. On March 3, 2013, Gonzales-Ramos directed his associate to make two cash deposits of $9,000 and $9,975 into his personal bank accounts.
As part of his plea agreement, Gonzales-Ramos agreed to surrender his Drug Enforcement Administration Certificate of Registration.
“This pill mill did enormous harm across a wide swath of our state and beyond,” said Goodwin. “Doctors swear an oath to do no harm, so it’s especially tragic when someone uses his or her prescription-writing privileges to fuel our region’s worst crime problem. I hope these cases send a message: There are consequences if you abuse your prescription power.”
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, the U.S. 119 Drug Task Force, the West Virginia State Police, and the Logan County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorney Steven Loew handled the prosecution.