In the city of Pittsburgh a doctor who served as the Steelers’ team physician for nearly 20 years was convicted yesterday morning in an illegal drug distribution scheme, in U.S. District Court.
Doctor Richard Rydze, age 67, was found Guilty of all 180 charges against him, all centered around a long-running conspiracy to sell and distribute narcotics, steroids and human growth hormone.
The doctor’s case was one of the longest criminal cases in the history of the Federal Court – the investigations started 12 years ago in 2005. The trial started last January before Judge Joy F Conti.
The prosecution’s position was that the doctor’s criminal actions were a “daily enterprise” driven by the desire to amass wealth.
“While a physician, Rydze used his prescribing pad in place of his ATM card, doling out steroids to enrich himself and flooding the community with dangerous painkillers. He violated the law, his professional oath and the trust of his patients.” (David Sierleja, U.S. Attorney in Cleveland)
Rydze owned and operated a highly questionable business in Pittsburgh called Optimal Health Center. Investigators learned he conspired with a man named James Hatzimbes, who owned HSE Salon and Wellness Center, and another individual, William Sadowski, who owned a pharmacy called ANEWrx. Hatzimbes, age 42, confessed his guilt in January. William Sadowski, age 47, confessed also and has served 2 years in prison.
This doctor was discovered to have called in thousands of illegal Vicodin prescriptions to numerous pharmacies, by using another doctor’s DEA number – Doctor Anthony Yates – without Doctor Yates’ knowledge.
At trial, Rydze’s brother Robert testified against him. Robert Rydze said his brother asked him in 2012 to lie, and say he was the one receiving thousands of Vicodin pills. If asked by law enforcement, he was to say he had been getting the pills for an imaginary foot infection.
Rydze had been routinely writing prescriptions in the name of “Robert Rydze” – the names of both his brother and his father, even after his father died in 2010. But when he learned the FBI was investigating, he begged his brother to lie for him.
The lying was the basis of the Obstruction of Justice charge – one of the 180 felony charges of which he was convicted.
Rydze was once an Olympian hero, a diver. He had also been the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers’ team doctor for 20 years. Investigators discovered he had been dealing narcotics since 2005, and steroids since 2007. Between 2007-2011, Rydze amassed more than $300,000 illegally.