"This pill mill did enormous harm across a wide swath of our state and beyond," Goodwin said. "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 power."
But defense attorney Ron Smith argued the doctor's long-term practice was different from other pill mills because he did see patients and compile progress notes on some of them.
"He readily admits that he crossed the line," Smith said during sentencing. "He started taking shortcuts. He didn't do all the things he should have done."
He said the doctor saw those patients who came in for Schedule II drugs.
"He didn't just hang a shingle and start prescribing drugs for cash," the attorney told the court, adding that Gonzales-Ramos' illegal actions evolved into what they were.
Gonzales-Ramos agreed to surrender his Drug Enforcement Administration registration as part of the plea agreement reached with the U.S. Attorney's office. In return the government agreed to ask for a 57-to-71-month sentence, instead of the possible 20 years.
Smith said his client had no prior criminal record, has a "tremendous bond" with his family and that 57 months was an "enormously long time" to be away from them.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Loew contended that southern West Virginia had a huge prescription pill problem and that the sentence should send a message that doctors should abide by their oath to do no harm.
Copenhaver noted the doctor understood the seriousness of his offense and that he cooperated from the beginning with police but said that he conducted his business "not unlike the common street drug dealer" and that he handed out prescriptions "willy-nilly" to those waiting in line.
Copenhaver ultimately issued the maximum sentence the plea agreement allowed. He will spend three years on supervised release when he is released from prison. Copenhaver did not impose a fine, which would have been up to $1 million, saying the doctor had no hope of paying it.
Gonzales-Ramos requested to serve his sentence near his family in Texas, which Copenhaver said he would recommend. He remains at South Central Regional Jail, where he has remained since his March arrest.
FBI agents worked with the U.S. 119 Drug Task Force, State Police and the Logan Sheriff's Department on the investigation.
"The vast majority of physicians prescribe responsibly," Goodwin said. "But even a handful of bad doctors can flood our communities with illegal pills.
"Every time we put a law breaking doctor out of business, it's a big step toward getting this problem under control."
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.cr...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.