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Judge sentences Grand Rapids doctor to 71 months in federal prison

Getty-84611044_MIAMI - FEBRUARY 02_ A judges gavel rests on top of a desk in the courtroom of the newly opened Black Police Precinct and Courthouse M_002 (1).jpeg
A 63-year-old Grand Rapids doctor was sentenced to 71 months in federal prison for illegally writing opioid prescriptions, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced Jan. 12, 2021. (WWMT/Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff sentenced a Grand Rapids doctor to 71 months in federal prison for writing illegal opioid prescriptions, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced Jan. 12, 2021.

Dr. Richard Samuel Piazza, 63, would also face three years of supervised release.

“Dr. Piazza stands convicted of the same offenses we charge against street corner drug dealers,” Birge said. “Those who feed the opioid crisis by writing prescriptions for no legitimate medical purpose deserve to be treated this way under the law. In some ways, Dr. Piazza’s behavior was worse than that of a street dealer, because his status as a doctor gave his actions a false appearance of legitimacy.”

Piazza pleaded guilty to three counts of distribution of controlled substances in September 2020.

Birge said Piazza wrote illegal prescriptions for thousands of opioids in exchange for cash or a kickback of some of the pills.

Judge Neff described his behavior as “an attack on the integrity of the medical profession.”