Ex-doctor sentenced for writing bad opioid prescriptions

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Grand Rapids doctor who admitted to writing illegal prescriptions for thousands of opioid pills was sentenced to federal prison.

Richard Samuel Piazza, 63, of Grand Rapids was sentenced to 71 months in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan said.

In addition to prison time, Piazza was also sentenced to three years of supervised release.

In Sept. 2020, Piazza 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.

Authorities say Piazza wrote thousands of illegal opioid prescriptions without valid medical reasons in exchange for cash or some of the pills.

In Feb. 2019, the allegation against Piazza surfaced after a pharmacist noticed Piazza was writing an unusually large number of prescriptions for opioids.

Piazza was employed by the Society of Healing Arts Institute in Grand Rapids’ Eastown neighborhood and at a Stanton clinic through Sheridan Community Hospital.

U.S. District Judge Janet Neff said his actions are “an attack on the integrity of the medical profession.”

“Dr. Piazza stands convicted of the same offenses we charge against street corner drug dealers,” U.S. Attorney Birge said. “Those who feed the opioid crisis by writing prescriptions for no legitimate medical purpose deserve to be treated this way under the law. In some ways, Dr. Piazza’s behavior was worse than that of a street dealer, because his status as a doctor gave his actions a false appearance of legitimacy.”

Several agencies assisted in investigating the case including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Michigan State Police and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.