Texas doctor accused in Logan pill mill not licensed in home state
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Texas doctor accused of running a pill mill in Logan County was licensed to practice in West Virginia, but not in the state where he worked at a veteran's hospital.
Dr. Fernando Gonzalez-Ramos, 47, of El Paso, appeared before U.S. District Magistrate Mary Stanley Wednesday afternoon for a preliminary hearing but his court-appointed attorney requested the hearing be continued to Tuesday, giving him more time to talk with the doctor and prepare. Stanley granted the continuance.
Gonzalez-Ramos was arrested Sunday morning at his office in Logan where people were lined up waiting to receive prescriptions. Armed with federal search warrants, authorities raided the building and found the building lacked running water, medical equipment, patient files and supplies.
Patients would pay a nurse cash, up to $500 for Schedule II narcotics, and then see the doctor briefly for a prescription. Prescriptions for Schedule III drugs were $450 and were handed out by the nurse.
The prescriptions were prewritten and stored in the patient's file.
Gonzalez-Ramos primarily practices in Texas, according to court records.
Susan Fleming, a spokeswoman for the VA Health Care System in El Paso, said Gonzalez-Ramos was hired a year and a half ago as a primary care physician. Doctors working for the federal agency are not required to be licensed in the state they practice as long as they are licensed to practice in the U.S.
She said the doctor would not see patients until the matter was carefully reviewed.
The outpatient hospital learned about the arrest Wednesday.
"We are conducting an internal review to ensure if his practice here at the VA was in compliance with VHA directives," Fleming said.
She said another provider will see all of his patients at the VA facility and that the facility would speak to them individually.
Robert Knittle, executive director of the West Virginia Board of Medicine, said a number of doctors are licensed in the state but have never set foot within the borders.
He said the board is in a position to let the legal system do its work and that a parallel investigation on their part would be confounding. Gonzalez-Ramos' West Virginia license remains active, but that could change if he is convicted.
Knittle said in that case his license would be revoked because of the Medical Practice Act.
"We take our responsibility to the public very seriously," Knittle said.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.