A Lynwood doctor who wrote thousands of prescriptions for powerful painkillers that served no medical purpose — from Norco to Xanax — was sentenced to five years in prison, the California Department of Justice announced Monday.
People seeking the opioids would travel from places like Victorville and Palmdale to see Dr. Edward Ridgill, 65, at his Lynwood clinic, prosecutors said. By issuing illegal prescriptions often paid for in cash, the doctor was able to work just three hours a day and rake in $175,000 in cash in just one year.
Late last year, a jury found Ridgill, a resident of Indio, guilty of 26 felony counts of illegally distributing controlled substances.
Young patients made up much of the doctor’s clientele, prosecutors said, with most of the prescriptions written typically for the maximum strength of the drugs hydrocodone, or Norco; alprazolam, best known as the brand Xanax; and carisoprodol, a muscle relaxer under the brand name Soma.
Those three drugs made up 95 percent of the prescriptions he wrote in 2014, prosecutors said during the trial.
“The combination of these three drugs is the most sought-after drug cocktail on the black market, and one for which there is no legitimate medical purpose,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
In court, prosecutors presented evidence showing Ridgill wrote nearly 9,000 in just 2014 alone. They also presented testimony about Drug Enforcement Administration agents getting prescriptions from the doctor in exchange for cash.
In 2014, Ridgill deposited more than $175,000 in cash, prosecutors said, as he wrote prescriptions easily and illegally.
The physical exams he did on patients seeking the drugs were “cursory, and far from the fulsome type of exam required to justify prescribing high doses of controlled substances,” prosecutors said in a news release.
During the trial, a medical expert testified that records show Ridgill prescribed “massive amounts” of the drugs to “relatively young” people who came to him for high dosages time after time.
In March 2015, federal search warrants were issued for the doctor’s home and medical office and authorities discovered a number of prescriptions that were already pre-written.
They also found “cash lining patient files and stuffed in the drawers containing those files,” prosecutors said in a news release.
Months later, in December 2015, Ridgill was convicted by a jury that deliberated for just 30 minutes. Of the 26 counts he was found guilty, 13 were for distributing hydrocodone, nine for distributing alprazolam and four were for distributing carisoprodol.
The agencies who investigated the case include the Torrance Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, IRS Criminal Investigation, the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad.