Local Doctor John Patrick Couch was arraigned at the John A. Campbell federal courthouse in Mobile this afternoon, only hours after several of his practices in Mobile County were raided by multiple law enforcement agencies.
Couch owns and operates Physician’s Pain Specialists of Alabama (PPSA) with Dr. Xiulu Ruan. Ruan was also arraigned today in Atlanta.
According to Tommy Loftis, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ruan appeared at a courtroom in Georgia because the law states a defendant must be arraigned at the “nearest district to where they are taken into custody.” However, Loftis couldn’t give a reason why Ruan was in Atlanta at the time of his arrest.
In the indictment, both doctors are accused of conspiring with each other and others to “knowingly and willfully distribute and dispense Schedule II controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and for no legitimate medical purpose.”
Couch was allowed to leave the courtroom in Mobile this afternoon, but only under certain conditions approved by U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade. Couch was required to turn over his passport, and will have to seek permission from the court in order to the leave the federal district.
Electronic monitoring was proposed by federal prosecutors, but Granade determined it was an unnecessary burden on Couch.
Both the prosecution and the defense attorneys representing Couch have agreed to a jury trial, and the jury selection process is currently scheduled to begin June 29. A trial is tentatively scheduled for the July session in Mobile.
The raid on both of the PPSA locations in Mobile happened in coordination with the “single largest pharmaceutical operation in DEA history,” which focused on busting so-called “pill mills” in four states.
Operation “pilluted” has focused on the illegal sale and distribution of painkillers, including oxycodone, which was one of several drugs listed in the indictment of Couch and Ruan.
The operation has seen 140 arrests over the past 15 months, some of those in Alabama. However, Loftis wouldn’t confirm whether the arrests in Mobile today were part of the ongoing operation.
In a press conference this morning, Gov. Robert Bentley, who is also a physician, called doctors who overprescribe pain medication an “embarrassment to the medical profession.”
“When they choose to overprescribe narcotics to patients, and they know that these patients may be or are abusing them, then they change from being a physician to really being a drug dealer,” he told reporters.
According to the indictment, if the pair are found guilty, prosecutors will seek the forfeiture of dozens of banking and investment accounts, physical properties and a stable of cars including Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Bentleys and Maseratis.