UPDATE 4/22/13 @ 2:20 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A doctor from Texas accused of operating a pill mill in West Virginia has pleaded guilty to a drug charge.
Dr. Fernando Gonzales-Ramos of El Paso, Texas, faces more than five years in prison. Sentencing is set for Aug. 14 in U.S. District Court in Charleston.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Tuesday that the 47-year-old doctor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose.
Goodwin said Gonzales-Ramos' office in Logan didn't have an exam table or running water. Goodwin called the office a "drug den" where Gonzalez-Ramos issued prescriptions for thousands of units of painkillers.
Under the plea agreement, Gonzalez-Ramos will surrender his federal Drug Enforcement Administration Certificate of Registration.
Dr. Fernando Gonzales-Ramos, 47, of El Paso, Texas, was charged with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice.
Gonzales-Ramos was arrested on March 3 following a raid at his office by West Virginia State Police, the Logan County Sheriff's office and the FBI.
Gonzales-Ramos was charged last week in a legal filing known as an information, which typically signals that a defendant has agreed to plead guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.
Prosecutors say from December 2012 through March 3, 2013, Gonzales-Ramos knowingly dispensed controlled substances for illegitimate medical purposes.
According to a criminal complaint by the FBI, Gonzales-Ramos distributed narcotics out of a Logan building that lacked running water and basic medical equipment. A person cooperating with authorities paid $450 for a hydrocodone prescription, and agents found several other people inside the building waiting to get prescriptions.
The investigation also revealed that employees working in the building at the time were an armed security guard, a bodyguard carrying brass knuckles, and a nurse/receptionist.
“As alleged, this doctor’s criminal conduct is shocking,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. “He ran a phony medical practice that was really nothing more than a drug den. It’s appalling that a licensed physician would pump illegal pills into our communities like this.”
Rod Smith, an attorney for Gonzales-Ramos, declined to comment.
Gonzales-Ramos faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine as a result of the charge filed by Goodwin. No court date has been set.
Fernando Gonzales-Ramos waived his right to a preliminary hearing in federal court Tuesday.
The judge in a case ordered that Ramos stay behind bars.
According to court documents, Ramos' office in Logan County had no exam tables and no running water. Investigators say he had a pair of armed security guards at the office, and a nurse who handed out prescriptions to customers lined up at the door, ready to pay cash.
Investigators say Ramos would fill the prescriptions in Texas and travel to Logan to pass out the pills.
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According to the criminal complaint, Dr. Fernando Gonzalez-Ramos was writing prescriptions for pills that were not for legitimate medical reasons.
Before searching the office, police noticed dozens of people waiting for pre-written prescriptions.
An armed security guard, a body guard with brass knuckles and a nurse/receptionist were also working inside the building, according to the complaint.
The nurse collected $450 to $500 from each patient waiting for drugs. Each patient had a file with a prescription written before they even walked in the door.
Inside the building with no running water; police say there were also no exam tables or other medical equipment.
Gonzalez lives in Texas where he is registered with the VA hospital. He would come to West Virginia every few months to work out of the Logan office.
According to the complaint, the nurse stated that she would schedule appointments with customers when Gonzalez told her he would be in Logan.
The nurse admitted to writing prescriptions and “progress notes” in the customers’ files and then sending them to Gonzalez in Texas. Gonzalez would sign the prescriptions and then bring them to the office in Logan.
The complaint states that Gonzalez “conspired with at least one other person, the nurse, to illegally, knowingly and intentionally distribute controlled substances.”
According to the West Virginia Board of Medicine website, Gonzalez has a medical license in West Virginia and has also been licensed in Puerto Rico.
Gonzalez is expected to be back in federal court Wednesday afternoon for a preliminary hearing.
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Dr. Fernando Gonzalez-Ramos was arrested Sunday and charged with conspiracy to deliver controlled substances.
What was happening inside a building along Route 10 in West Logan came as no surprise to those living nearby. Although the place had no running water or signs, there were somehow signals of when the doctor was in versus when the doctor was out.
We tried to press Gonzalez but he didn't say much. WSAZ.com asked if he could give an explanation to his patients.
"Yes, but when I talk to my attorney, though. They will be informed," Gonzalez said.
Pastor Scotty Dingess runs the church down the street and says he's seen those fighting addiction and describes the pill pipeline as powerful.
"It really breaks all of our heart to see that kind of damage in their lives and see that people would go that far," Scotty Dingess said. "It's pretty bad."
The church offers classes to curb addiction and wants more people to help those who are struggling.
Neighbors tell WSAZ.com they would see a packed parking lot at the doctor's office once -- sometimes twice a month. Otherwise, the former restaurant simply sat empty.
We found Gonzalez traveled from Texas to Logan. Government records show he was employed with the Veterans Affairs hospital in El Paso.
Now the community is hoping the supply for the cycle of abuse stops.
The U.S. Attorney is prepared to prosecute. Gonzalez was arraigned Monday afternoon in federal court. He's still in jail but did not want to speak with WSAZ.com.
If the prosecutor finds more evidence in the case, additional charges could be filed against the doctor.
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Dr. Fernando Gonzalez-Ramos was arrested Sunday afternoon and charged with conspiracy to deliver controlled substances.
“We've been having a lot of community call-ins in regards to this. Just the traffic in the area to a doctor's office -- led us to believe something else was going on here," Logan County Sheriff Sonya Porter said.
West Virginia State Police, the Logan County Sheriff's office and the FBI searched Gonzalez's office before the arrest.
Details about the evidence collected aren't being released just yet.
Gonzalez's office is located on Route 10 in West Logan. Police say the building has no running water, and there was a line of patients when they arrived, Sunday morning.
WSAZ asked Gonzalez if he could give an explanation to his patients.
"Yes, but when I talk to my attorney though. They will be informed," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is in the South Central Regional Jail, waiting to be arraigned in federal court.
Police say this arrest is a major step in getting to the root of the area's drug problem.
Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.