Austin psychiatrist charged with involvement in narcotics ring
February 4, 2014
An Austin doctor who police say wrote more than 400 prescriptions for narcotic pain medications in exchange for methamphetamine and cash is one of at least a dozen people charged in connection with an illegal drug distribution organization.
Richard Edward Sofinowski, 47, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Jan. 21 on one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and other controlled substances outside the scope of professional practice, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas. He was also indicted on two substantive drug distribution counts, the office said.
Sofinowski surrendered to federal authorities Monday and was released on a personal recognizance bond that day, the attorney’s office said.
Arza Demi, who authorities say helped Sofinowski give the prescriptions in exchange for meth and money, was indicted on the same charges, according to the attorney’s office. The 42-year-old remained in federal custody as of earlier this week.
“Prescription drug abuse has become increasingly prevalent in the community, and it is especially serious when a licensed medical professional violates his professional duties as well as federal law in illegally dispensing controlled substances,” U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman said in a statement. “If Dr. Sofinowski is found guilty of writing prescriptions for narcotics by the grand jury, he will face serious consequences for enabling others’ dependence on drugs.”
Police said Sofinowski was a “key member of a narcotics distribution organization” and wrote prescriptions to 24 people on a rotating basis. Those people would then fill prescriptions for painkillers, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication at pharmacies across the city and then return the medication to the organization in exchange for keeping some of the drugs.
Sofinowski admitted to police that none of the people were his patients and that he distributed the prescriptions through leaders in the organization, according to an arrest affidavit.
Police issued warrants on a charge of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud for Wayne Johnson, 39, Bonita Hawthorne, 50, Woodrow Matthews, 32, Amanda Isbell, 34, Richard Graham, 36, Ruth Thompson, 35, Jessica Falscroft, 39, Kimberly Holmes, 36, Erin Feltmeyer, 31, and Michael Sullivan, 34, court records show.
Hawthorne, Graham, Sullivan, Falscroft and Holmes had been arrested by Thursday.
As of Friday evening, none of the other suspects was in custody in Travis County, according to jail records.
Sofinowski was earlier arrested and charged with possession on Nov. 13 after authorities searched his home and discovered 11.5 grams of methamphetamine and several hundred tablets of controlled substances. He was booked at the Williamson County Jail and released the next day after posting bail, which was set at $20,000.
According to the Texas Medical Board, Sofinowski has been licensed as a doctor in Texas since 1992, with a primary practice of psychiatry.
Sofinowski has not been investigated by the board before, according to the organization’s website, nor has he been disciplined or had his licensed restricted.
In 2002, he received an employee excellence award from the Austin Travis County Integral Care, according to the board’s website, which lists him as having been a supervisor of the Austin State Hospital residency program since 2001.
On Tuesday, an Integral Care spokesman told the American-Statesman that the organization can’t verify that Sofinowski received the award because there is no record of it.
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