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Washington State News

Richland Physician Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Conspiring to Distribute Controlled Substances

Spokane, Wash. – Dr. Janet Sue Arnold, of Benton City, Washington was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison 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. Senior Judge Edward F. Shea, who presided over the case, also imposed a period of 3-years’ federal supervised release.  

According to court documents, Arnold abused her position of trust as a medical doctor by participating in a prescription drug conspiracy with Danielle Corine Mata, David Barnes Nay, Lisa Marie Cooper, and Jennifer Cheri Prichard. As part of their conspiracy, Dr. Arnold and her conspirators pushed thousands of pills on the street to be abused, using and distributing blank, pre-signed prescriptions for opioids.

The conspiracy operated primarily out of Dr. Arnold’s clinic, where on a regular basis, the conspirators distributed highly addictive and dangerous controlled substances, including fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, methylphenidate, an amphetamine mixture, as well as carisoprodol and alprazolam.

Dr. Arnold had a pattern and practice of providing office staff and patients with hundreds of blank, pre-signed prescriptions that, after logging into the clinic computer, allowed the conspirators 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.”

Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, emphasized the seriousness of Dr. Arnold’s breach of trust to the community: “The severity of the conduct cannot be overstated. Dr. Arnold had the prescription pad, the pen, and all the power to prescribe highly addictive Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances. She abused that power by pre-signing numerous blank prescriptions and giving them to her office manager. Dr. Arnold contributed to an epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction in Washington.”

Arnold is the third of five defendants to be sentenced in this case. David Barnes Nay, of Kennewick, Washington, and Lisa Marie Cooper, of Prosser, Washington, were sentenced to 78-month and 24-month terms of imprisonment, respectively.  Danielle Corine Mata, of Richland, Washington, and Jennifer Cheri Prichard, of Prosser, Washington, are scheduled to be sentenced in May 2022.