Doctor Pleads Guilty in Online Prescription Fraud Case, Loses License

A Grand Forks, North Dakota doctor has pled guilty on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. His counsel says that he client didn’t know he was breaking the law and even paid taxes on his earnings.

Authorities say Enrique Rivera Mass, 56, illegally signed off on prescriptions for nearly 1.8 million pills that were sold online. While practicing psychiatry, Rivera Mass allegedly issued prescriptions mostly for weight loss drugs, primarily phentermine, but also sleep and anxiety medications, painkillers and the smoking cessation drugs without personally interviewing or reviewing the medical records of the patients.

Court documents state that Rivera Mass was involved with Internet pharmacies in Puerto Rico and continued while he was working at the Center for Psychiatric Care in Grand Forks between January 2007 and April 2009. Rivera Mass has returned to Puerto Rico.

Facing a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, and surrender of $100,000 in profits, prosecutors said “he did not have access to medical records of the patients for review nor did he ever meet or talk to any patients prior to approval of an order,” in the plea agreement.

Defense attorney Jose Barreto-Rampolla of San Juan, Puerto Rico, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that Rivera Mass didn’t understand the laws governing Internet pharmacies.

“I think a lot of doctors are uneducated about that,” Barreto-Rampolla said. “But that’s not a defense.”

Barreto-Rampolla also said Rivera Mass cooperated with the government and the fact that he paid income and Social Security taxes on his earnings indicates that he didn’t intend to be involved in a conspiracy.

“He also had his medical license revoked. He cannot work as a doctor. It’s a double whammy,” the lawyer said. “Hopefully the judge will be lenient enough to allow some constructive type of sentencing.” Sentencing is scheduled for April 15th 2011.