Washington Doctor Handed 4-Year Prison Term For Illegal Opioid Distribution


The opioid crisis rages on in America. The Allegiant Experts Blog has made it no secret that the epidemic needs continuous attention in order to be eradicated. Of course, an entire elimination of opioid addictions and overdoses isn’t all that realistic. Our hope is that, somehow, we will soon see a decline in overdose deaths caused by opioids. Sadly, the statistics show we’re going in the wrong direction.


As the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) informs us, “since 2000, the annual number of drug overdose deaths has nearly quadrupled from 17,500 to 67,400 in 2018. Most of these deaths involved opioids, including heroin, prescription painkillers, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.”


Medical professionals such as Dr. Janet Sue Arnold are not helping matters.


As reported by the Eastern District of Washington branch of the United States Department of Justice, the 63 year-old was just sentenced to prison for illegally distributing opioids. Arnold received a four year sentence for conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute opioid pain medications and other controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice.


Arnold also received a period of 3-years’ federal supervised release. According to court documents, Arnold abused her position of trust as a medical doctor. She conspired with four other conspirators to push thousands of pills on the street. The drugs were abused by addicts and potentially caused others to become addicted to controlled substances. Two of those co-conspirators were addicts themselves.


Danielle Corine Mata and Jennifer Cheri Prichard began as patients. Eventually, they started working at Arnold’s Richland, Washington clinic, Desert Wind Family Practice. In approximately March 2016, Mata became the practice’s trusted office manager. She was given fictitious patient names by two other co-conspirators, David Barnes Nay and Lisa Marie Cooper. With those names, Mata created several pre-signed prescriptions to obtain opioids.


Several opioids were illegally prescribed.


Those dangerous controlled substances included fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, methylphenidate, carisoprodol and alprazolam. Arnold developed a pattern of providing office staff and patients with hundreds of blank, pre-signed prescriptions. With them, her co-conspirators were able to complete and print prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances.


“Text messages recovered by investigators from Arnold’s and Mata’s phones demonstrated that Dr. Arnold had texted Mata asking if she needed more ‘signed paper,’” reveals the DoJ report, “A conspirator acknowledged how important Dr. Arnold’s signature was to the illegal prescription drug distribution conspiracy when she commented to another conspirator, ‘It’s just a scribble, but it’s important.’”


Arnold also wrote a prescription for a confidential informant.


During the investigation into the case, Arnold prescribed oxycodone pills to a DEA confidential informant. Of course, she did so without a legitimate medical reason and outside the usual course of medical practice. The confidential informant was posing as a patient who had a headache. All interactions between the informant and Arnold were covertly audio and video-recorded.


David Barnes Nay and Lisa Marie Cooper have already been sentenced to 78-month and 24-month terms of imprisonment, respectively. Danielle Corine Mata and Jennifer Cheri Prichard are scheduled to be sentenced in May 2022.


Are you an attorney who is currently working a health care fraud case?


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