GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Grand Rapids doctor has admitted to writing unnecessary prescriptions for thousands of opioid pills.
Richard Piazza has pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful distribution of prescription drug controlled substances after writing illegal prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone. Other counts were dismissed under the terms of a plea agreement.
Documents filed in federal court Sept. 2 outlining the deal show Piazza admitted he wrote prescriptions without valid medical reasons. In some cases, he used the pills as payment for drug debts he owed. In other cases, he had the people who filled prescriptions give some of the pills back to him before they sold the rest on the street.
When the allegations against Piazza surfaced in February 2019, the Drug Enforcement Administration said it was tipped off by a pharmacist who noticed Piazza was writing an unusually large number of prescriptions for opioids.
Piazza was previously investigated by the DEA in Kansas and ultimately giving up his license to practice in that state, then faced discipline in the states of Iowa and California.
In Michigan, he worked for the Society of Healing Arts Institute in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood and at a Stanton clinic through Sheridan Community Hospital.
Target 8 found a former co-worker attempted to report Piazza’s bad behavior during his time in Stanton, but she said superiors didn’t care about her concerns and that she felt discouraged from filing a formal complaint. He kept his job.
Piazza faces up to 20 years in federal prison, at least three years of supervised release and up to a $1 million fine. He previously surrendered his license to prescribe controlled substances.