Criminal Defense Attorney Analysis of Internet Pharmacy, Prescription, and Drug Law

Doctor Pleads Guilty to Online Pharmacy Law Violations

On October 20, 2010, Dr. Enrique Rivera Mass pled guilty in the U.S. District Court of North Dakota to an Information alleging conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance via various online pharmacies.  Specifically, as part of the Plea Agreement, Dr. Rivera Mass acknowledged prescribing “at least 108,084 dosage units of a Schedule III controlled substance” and “at least 1,672,710 dosage units of a Schedule IV controlled substance” between January 2007 and April 2009 through internet pharmacies.  Dr. Rivera Mass also agreed to forfeit $100,000.  According to the Plea, Dr. Rivera Mass did not review medical records or contact any “customary primary physician” for his online pharmacy patients.

According to WDAZ in North Dakota:

Rivera Mass became involved with Internet pharmacies several years ago in his native Puerto Rico and continued while he was working in North Dakota, according to court documents. Officials with the Center for Psychiatric Care in Grand Forks say Rivera Mass worked there from Feb. 16 to March 18, 2009, and was fired after his Internet pharmacy dealings were discovered. He has since returned to Puerto Rico.

As part of the Plea, the parties agreed that Dr. Rivera Mass’s total offense level for the conspiracy count to which he plead under the Federal Sentencing Guidelinesis 22.  However, as part of the plea, the Government agreed to recommend a 2-level downward departure for acceptance of responsibility and 1-level downward departure for timely notification of Dr. Rivera Mass’s intention to enter a guilty plea.  The Government agreed to recommend a sentence within the guidelines.

Assuming the offense level is determined to be 19 by the Court, the sentencing range under the Guidelines would be 30-37 months for an individual without any criminal history.  Of course, post-U.S. v. Booker, the guidelines are no longer mandatory and are merely advisory.  Instead, the Court must sentence according to the factors located in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), which means the final sentence could be higher or lower than the recommended range under the Guidelines.  A conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance carries a maximum 10 year sentence.

The Ryan Haight Act, an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act, became effective in April 2009.  While the Information alleges that Dr. Rivera Mass’s conduct occurred between 2007 and April 2009, the language of the plea insinuates that all of the prescriptions occured prior to the effective date of the Ryan Haight Act.  As you might recall, the Ryan Haight Act makes it illegal to prescribe a controlled substance via an internet pharmacy without performing a face-to-face examination.  The language of the plea agreement, however, utilizes the pre-Ryan Haight Act language of the Controlled Substances Act and its associated regulations aimed at all prescriptions, not just those via an online pharmacy (i.e. the prescription must be for a “legitimate medical purpose” and issued in the ”usual course of professional practice”).  Consequently, though one can’t be completely sure, the prescriptions in question likely occurred before the Ryan Haight Act’s effective date.

According to WDAZ, Dr. Rivera Mass’s medical license has been revoked.

The content on this post does not constitute legal advice and is for informational purposes only.  You should not act upon the information presented on this website without seeking the advice of legal counsel.  Should you wish to speak to an experienced white collar criminal defense lawyer knowledgeable and experienced in prescription, drug and online pharmacy law, including the Controlled Substances Act, the Ryan Haight Act amendment and Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act violations, please feel free to contact one of us directly.

Category: Doctors