Nevada car dealer manager pleads guilty to drug conspiracy
RENO — The alleged leader of Nevada prescription painkiller ring that operated primarily out of a Reno car dealership he managed pleaded guilty Friday to drug conspiracy and possession charges.
Richard “Richie” West entered the plea in U.S. District Court a day after the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners filed a 74-count malpractice complaint against a Reno doctor accused of writing the illegal prescriptions.
West, 40, earlier pleaded not guilty to multiple gun and drug charges. He entered the guilty pleas for one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and one count of possession with intent to distribute oxycodone in exchange for all other charges being dropped.
He faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing set for May 8 before U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Reno.
West, Dr. Robert Rand and seven others were arrested last April on charges of illegally distributing narcotics after federal agents raided the Jones-West Ford dealership owned by West’s father.
Rand also faces one count of illegally distributing a controlled substance causing death. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges he faces and is awaiting a trial scheduled for April 25.
Federal prosecutors said the drug ring operated from November 2012 until April 2016, primarily out of the Ford dealership where West was accused of selling oxycodone and other narcotics out of his pickup truck in the parking lot.
Dan Bogden, U.S. attorney for Nevada, said in a statement after Friday’s court session that prescription drug abuse is a major public health and public safety issue.
“We are fighting collaboratively with our law enforcement partners pursuing dirty doctors and illicit pill mills to ensure that our communities remain safe and that we bring wrongdoers to justice and stem the rising tide of prescription drug abuse,” he said.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched an investigation in 2015 after receiving tips that Rand was writing prescriptions for cash-only payments. He is charged with causing the overdose death of Michael Yenick, 33, a former University of Nevada football player.
Rand has been held without bail in the Washoe County jail since his arrest. He currently still has his medical license, but he could lose it after the Board of Medical Examiners schedules a hearing on the complaint accusing him of malpractice and other misconduct involving 18 patients.
The names of the patients were not included in the complaint so it was not clear if one of them was Yenick.
Rand’s lawyer, John Ohlson of Reno, said Friday he remains convinced the doctor will be cleared of criminal wrongdoing.
Ohlson said in an email that he spoke with three representatives of the medical examiners’ board on Thursday and was told the board was “under pressure” to issue the complaint. He said that when he asked the board officials what they intend to do when Rand is acquitted of the criminal charges, he was “met with silence.”
Rand has been practicing family medicine in Reno for 15 years since he was certified by the board, Ohlson said.
“Until his arrest he conducted a full time family practice serving thousands of patients in need whether they had insurance or otherwise could pay or not,” he said.