Montgomery doctor arrested in pill mill case among state's highest prescribers

Montgomery doctor arrested in pill mill case among state’s highest prescribers
DEA agents executed a search warrant at the medical practice Thursday morning (Source: WSFA 12 News)
DEA agents executed a search warrant at the medical practice Thursday morning (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Agents were seen at the practice throughout the morning (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Agents were seen at the practice throughout the morning (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Thursday morning, Dr. Richard Stehl was escorted out of his practice "Health Care on Demand" in handcuffs by federal agents.

Stehl is charged with distribution of a controlled substance, for reportedly over-prescribing opioids in situations that were medically unnecessary.

The federal complaint states the investigation was launched after law enforcement received an anonymous call that Stehl was over-prescribing controlled substances to the caller's sister, and refused to stop despite their family's plea to the doctor.

"The caller then said that Stehl had given [the patient] his cellular telephone number and told [the patient] to "call if [she] needed a refill," the complaint cited.

The investigator states he checked Stehl's Prescription Drug Monitoring Report, or PDMP, which stores information about the prescribing of controlled substances in Alabama. That report showed 'extensive and alarming' prescribing habits, ranking Stelh's prescription rate 116 of 12,843 providers in Alabama in 2018.

"That puts him in the top 0.9 percent of all prescribers," according to the court record.

The investigator solicited statements from local pharmacists that 'turned away' some of Stehl's patients due to the quantities of controlled substances he would prescribe.

At this point, Stehl's case is not connected to the high-profile Montgomery pill mill investigation involving Doctor Gilberto Sanchez, however court documents state Sanchez, and other defendants who have been convicted in that case, told investigators Stehl too was breaking the law.

Sanchez told investigators Stehl had been fired from a local hospital and rented office space from him in 2010.

"Sanchez indicated that he believed that Stehl was also prescribing unnecessary controlled substances during the period that Stehl leased space from him," the document stated.

Dr. Julio Delgado, who worked at Family Practice with Sanchez, also spoke with investigators.

"Delgado described Stehl as a 'carbon copy of Gilberto Sanchez.' I understood this statement to mean that Stehl, like Sanchez, frequently wrote illegitimate prescriptions for controlled substances," the complaint cited. "Delgado added that Stehl was known for providing poor patient care and for ordering unnecessary medical tests."

Another defendant in the Sanchez case was a patient of Stehl's, according to the complaint. That defendant alleged Stehl prescribed unnecessary drugs and ordered needless tests during monthly visits.

"I can just go in and tell him what I need or want, and he will just write it," the defendant said of Stehl. "The PDMP confirmed that [the defendant] received controlled substances prescriptions for Stehl during those office visits."

Stehl made his first appearance before a federal judge late Thursday afternoon.

He will remain in federal custody pending a bond hearing.

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