Doctor Pleads Guilty to Running ‘Pill Mill’

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CLEVELAND--  A local psychiatrist admitted on Thursday that he used his practice to illegally prescribe powerful drugs for profit.

Dr. Samuel Nigro pleaded guilty to charges that include drug trafficking, tampering with drugs and attempting to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Dan Kasaris told FOX 8, "Drug addicts went to him for pills. Now there probably were some who did go to him for psychiatry, but they're shoppers. Doctor shoppers find out where to go, where to go to get their pills."

The pill mill operated by 76-year-old Nigro was exposed during an investigation by the Ohio State Pharmacy Board and the Cleveland Police narcotics unit. Undercover informants, who were sent to Nigro's offices in Beachwood and Lakewood wearing recording devices, asked for and received prescriptions, with few questions asked.

"You know my back hurts, I was dancing on a pole and my back hurts me," said Kasaris.

Investigators say the doctor also ran his drug business out of his home in Cleveland Heights. Kasaris said patients would pay Nigro $100 to $200 for prescriptions for powerful drugs like Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Percocet and Adderall.

As part of a plea agreement, Dr. Nigro agreed to forfeit $150,000 he made trafficking in drugs, and pay an additional $100,000 to cover the cost of investigating and prosecuting the case.

Nigro was a decorated Vietnam War veteran, and had once been a respected psychiatrist.  "But when you have a professional who at the end of his career, you know, goes to the dark side, that's something that we take very seriously," said Kasaris.

Nigro has surrendered his medical license, and faces up to 14 years in prison when he's sentenced on May 27.