Former Steelers doctor charged with distributing steroids, hormones, narcotics
A former doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the FBI's field office appeared in federal court on Friday on 185 charges of health care fraud and trafficking in anabolic steroids, human growth hormones and painkillers.
A onetime Olympic medalist in platform diving, Dr. Richard A. Rydze, 62, of the Strip District finds himself mired in bankruptcy and criminal charges. Wearing leg shackles and dressed in a red knit shirt and black pants, Rydze briefly answered questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell during an initial appearance in federal court, Downtown, but declined to comment as marshals led him away.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Michael Novara argued that Rydze should be let out on bond because he's a “lifelong, well-respected member of the community.” Mitchell ordered Rydze held without bail.
Prosecutors and FBI agents from Cleveland are handling the investigation and prosecution of Rydze because of his doctor-patient relationships with local FBI agents.
Rydze was on the Steelers medical staff for 22 years until 2007, when federal agents questioned him about his use of a personal credit card to buy about $150,000 worth of human growth hormone and testosterone from a Florida pharmacy.
An indictment charges him with trafficking in painkillers since 2005 and trafficking in steroids and human growth hormones since 2007.
UPMC, which provides the doctors for the Steelers, started an internal investigation in 2007, and by August of that year, he no longer worked for the hospital system or the football team.
UPMC spokeswoman Susan Manko said the hospital “has been aware of the investigation and has been cooperating fully with authorities throughout the investigation. Per UPMC policy, we cannot comment further on this legal and personnel matter.”
Rydze was trafficking in the painkiller hydrocodone-acetaminophen as early as Feb. 4, 2005, prosecutors say. The indictment says he used another doctor's name and Drug Enforcement Administration registration number for the prescriptions but identifies the doctor only as “AY.”
Dr. Freddie Fu, chairman of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said he did not know much about Rydze other than that he was a partner with Dr. Anthony Yates, the head of the Steelers medical team. Yates declined to comment.
Steelers veterans Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Charlie Batch and Ben Roethlisberger, all of whom began playing for Pittsburgh while Rydze worked for the team, said they had not heard of the doctor. Team spokesman Burt Lauten declined to comment.
In March 2011, federal agents raided Rydze's Optimal Health Care LLC office on First Avenue, Downtown, which he opened in 2007, according to the indictment.
A spokeswoman for Little Sisters of the Poor confirmed that Rydze works as the medical director for its Brighton Heights home for seniors. She declined further comment.
The grand jury also indicted William Zipf, 56, on two counts related to narcotics trafficking and James Hatzimbes, 42, on six counts related to steroid and hormone trafficking. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Northern Ohio declined to provide home addresses for either man.
The indictment says Zipf conspired with Rydze to fill painkiller prescriptions in several people's names at multiple pharmacies to hide the amount of painkillers he was buying.
Hatzimbes owned and operated HSE Salon and Wellness Center on Saw Mill Run Boulevard in Overbrook. According to the indictment, Rydze and Hatzimbes scheduled “steroid clinics” at the salon nearly every other Saturday in which Rydze would misdiagnose clients as having hormone imbalance, pituitary dwarfism or adrenal insufficiency and prescribe hormones or steroids. The two men split the $75 fee they charged each client, the indictment says.
Rydze also received $301,407 in commissions from clients filling their fraudulent prescriptions at ANEWrx pharmacy in Robinson, the indictment states.
Prosecutors charged the pharmacy's owner, William Sadowski, 46, of Pittsburgh, and an employee, John Gavin, 51, of Valencia, in separate cases with conspiring to traffic steroids.
Rydze and his wife filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2010, selling their home in Mt. Lebanon and a condominium in Hidden Valley to help clear their debts. A federal bankruptcy judge dismissed the case in September when they were unable to pay their federal taxes, which means they lost bankruptcy protection from their creditors.
On Friday, Mitchell questioned the need for keeping Rydze in jail, but special Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol Skutnik argued that Rydze has a previous attempt at flight from prosecution. The DEA suspended his ability to write prescriptions in June and has since revoked his license, but he has written 10 to 15 prescriptions since then, Skutnik said. She declined to provide details after the hearing. Novara also declined to comment.
Rydze filled out a form asking the court to appoint a lawyer to represent him.
Andrew Conte, Carl Prine and Ralph Paulk contributed to this report.Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at412-325-4301 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Federal appeals court appears divided on Obama’s immigrant deportation shield
- Penguins pushing to sell playoff tickets
- Golf outing bolsters cancer patient fund at Kittanning hospital
- Groups looking to stage Day of Prayer at new school in Manor
- Armstrong’s roads less-traveled get funding for drainage improvements
- Marte’s bat, Worley’s arm show improvement in Pirates win
- Butler County new home sales surge in 2014
- Penguins stars Crosby, Malkin enduring playoff slump
- Armstrong gets fourth officer trained to spot drugged drivers
- Mackey: For Pens’ Winnik, playing with Crosby an ongoing process
- Sanchez odd man out with Pirates recalling Stewart