A Bethel Park man who befriended former Steelers doctor Richard A. Rydze pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and healthcare fraud, saying he used the physician's prescriptions to acquire and sell hundreds of grams of powerful narcotics.
William Zipf, 59, was a self-employed jeweler who, beginning in 2007, got prescriptions written at Dr. Rydze's Downtown Pittsburgh clinic, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kall.
Zipf, who has a prior federal drug conviction, had Dr. Rydze provide him with extra prescriptions in the names of relatives who the physician never examined, Mr. Kall said. Zipf would then sell the pills and sometimes gave some back to Dr. Rydze, according to the prosecutor.
Dr. Rydze, according to Mr. Kall, "understood that the controlled substances would not be used for legitimate medical purposes" and told Zipf to "spread [the prescriptions] around" to different pharmacies to avoid arousing suspicion.
Sometimes the bill went to the relative's health insurer.
Zipf accepted responsibility for distributing 173,400 milligrams of oxycodone and 88,800 milligrams of oxymorphone as well as for health-care fraud that cost insurers $11,709.
Prosecutors and Zipf's attorney, Patrick Thomassey, agreed to a plea recommending a sentence of eight to 10 years. U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry can accept or reject that recommendation at sentencing, set for Aug. 23.
Dr. Rydze has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Adrian Roe, had no comment today.
The physician was on the Steelers' medical staff for two decades until 2007 -- prior to the conduct alleged in the 185-count indictment against him.
Federal prosecutors from Cleveland are handling the case because Dr. Rydze has treated many members of local law enforcement, including FBI agents.
Rich Lord: email@example.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.