Pill mill manager sentenced to prison
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The former manager of a pain clinic that served as a pill mill in Mingo County was at a loss for words as she stood before U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver waiting to hear her fate.
The judge sentenced Myra Sue Miller, 50, of South Williamson, Ky., to six months in federal prison and a year on supervised release Wednesday. She previously pleaded guilty in March to misusing a Drug Enforcement Administration registration number that didn't belong to her.
The number belonged to Dr. William Ryckman, who was convicted in March 2012 of misusing his DEA registration number and now is serving three years probation.
"I am truly sorry that I ever done this," an emotional Miller told the court. "I accept full responsibility . . . I certainly never would have done this had I not trusted Dr. Ryckman.
"I just don't know what to say. I'm sorry."
Miller was Ryckman's office manager at Mountain Medical on West Third Avenue in Williamson. Miller faxed several blank "doctors list" forms to Ryckman's Pennsylvania home on Feb. 17, 2010, according to court documents.
The doctor signed and faxed them back. The forms were then used, with his knowledge and permission, to prescribe controlled substances to patients he had not seen. Miller then directed others in the office to fill in the signed forms with the patients' information and information on the prescribed medication. She then faxed the forms to pharmacies in the area for the drugs to be dispensed.
Patients went to the clinic on Feb. 19, paid a fee and were directed to the pharmacies where she'd sent the forms to pick up medication. The patients were prescribed drugs such as hydrocodone, used to treat pain, and Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, both of which are highly addictive and often abused.
"Every time we put a pill dealer out of business or shut down a pill mill, it's a big step toward getting this problem under control," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a release.
John Wooten, Miller's attorney, argued that Miller had cooperated substantially with investigators and prosecutors during the investigation into the pill mill. He said she met with investigators three times and "has assisted in any way asked of her."
Ryckman had initially been sentenced to six months in prison but his sentence was reduced to three years of probation. Wooten hoped for a similar arrangement for Miller.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Frail told Copenhaver that the prosecution would not make a motion on Miller's behalf. He said that she had provided them with information but that he wouldn't consider it "substantial in any way."
Miller expressed remorse and regret.
"I now know what I did was wrong and I wish I never did it," she said. "I'm just so sorry."
Her husband, son and other family and co-workers were in the courtroom for the hearing.
Copenhaver called her crime "serious," but that he thought from her lack of criminal history, her involvement in the community and that she's since found another job that she likely wouldn't be back in his courtroom.
"I agree wholeheartedly, sir," she said.
She also agreed as part of her plea agreement to forfeit to the government her interest in the clinic building and about $475,823, including $465,815 seized from her home in Kentucky and $10,008 from her bank account.
Miller is to report to prison by Nov. 1. In addition to prison time, she also is to pay a $5,000 fine within 30 days. She remains free on bond.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.