LOS ANGELES – Two doctors who each operated medical offices in Lynwood have been arrested on federal drug charges that allege they issued prescriptions for narcotics and sedatives without a medical purpose, selling the prescriptions for cash to those involved in gang activity.
The two doctors were charged in conjunction with "Operation Money Bags," an operation that targeted members and associates of the East Coast Crips criminal street gang.
The two doctors – Sonny Oparah, 75, of Long Beach, and Edward Ridgill, 64, of Ventura – surrendered to federal authorities on August 26, 2016. Both men are scheduled to be arraigned on September 15.
"We have to weed out doctors who blatantly ignore their oath and their duty to the health and safety of others," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "This type of illegal activity hurts our communities and threatens our safety."
Oparah and Ridgill are accused of illegally prescribing powerful and highly addictive painkillers. According to the affidavit filed in the cases, Oparah issued nearly 13,000 prescriptions for those drugs in a one-year period between July 2014 and July 2015, and Ridgill issued more than 21,000 such prescriptions in a three-year period between July 2011 and July 2014. All of the prescribed drugs were at or near maximum strength.
The affidavit describes 12 undercover operations during which Oparah or Ridgill sold prescriptions in exchange for cash fees. In most instances, the doctors sold the prescriptions without ever examining the undercover officer or cooperating witness. A medical expert’s independent review of the undercover recordings and seized patient files confirmed that there was no legitimate medical basis for the prescriptions.
“The investigation determined that these doctors were significant suppliers of drugs to a street gang. As the charges in the indictments demonstrate, these doctors enabled the gang’s criminal activity just like street-level drug dealers,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker.
The federal investigation into Oparah and Ridgill showed that they operated cash businesses. Federal authorities made cash seizures from both doctors, and bank records showing that Ridgill deposited $500,000 in cash into his bank accounts over a period of less than three years.
The investigation in the federal cases against the doctors was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Torrance Police Department, IRS - Criminal Investigation, the California Medical Board and the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.