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Bethel Park jeweler sentenced for role in drug ring

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 9:28 p.m.

A Bethel Park businessman who was given 10 years in prison on drug charges asked a federal judge on Thursday to include a 500-hour drug treatment program in his sentence.

“I mostly got into this situation because I was taking a large quantity of the drugs after my wife passed away,” said William Zipf, 58.

Zipf pleaded guilty in June to participating in a prescription drug conspiracy with former Steelers doctor, Richard Rydze, 63, of the Strip District. He also pleaded guilty to health care fraud because UPMC Health Plan and the health plan for IBM paid for some of the painkillers Zipf illegally obtained.

Rydze wrote Zipf prescriptions under several names, and Zipf filled them at different pharmacies to hide what he was doing.

U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry said he would recommend Zipf for the drug treatment program and ordered that his 10-year sentence would run concurrently with the remainder of the three years and one month he is serving on a federal cocaine conviction out of West Virginia.

Rydze was on the Steelers' medical staff for 22 years until 2007 when he came under investigation for hormone trafficking.

He also provided medical exams for the FBI's Pittsburgh field office, so FBI agents and prosecutors from Cleveland are handling the investigation and prosecution of the ring.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Kall, from the Northern District of Ohio, said Zipf was responsible for selling 173,400 milligrams of oxycodone and 88,800 milligrams of oxymorphone between 2007 and 2012.

The street value is about $1 per milligram, he said. Zipf kept dealing in prescription drugs after he was busted for cocaine in 2010 and after federal agents executed search warrants on Rydze's office and other locations in 2011, Kall said.

“That didn't stop him from participating in this oxycodone ring,” he said.

A jeweler for 30 years who also had a real estate business, Zipf began abusing drugs sometime between his wife's illness in 2006 and her death in 2008, said his attorney, Pat Thomassey.

“It just goes to show what happens when people turn to drugs because of a personal tragedy,” he said. “It's a sad situation.”

Rydze is facing 185 counts of health care fraud, obstruction of justice and trafficking in anabolic steroids, human growth hormones and painkillers.

Rydze and another defendant, James Hatzimbes, 43, are awaiting trial on their charges. Hatzimbes scheduled “steroid clinics” so Rydze could prescribe hormones or steroids to people for nonexistent ailments, prosecutors say.

The clinics were held at Hatzimbes' HSE Salon and Wellness Center, also known as HSE Anti-Aging & Wellness Center, in Overbrook, and the two men split the $75 fee that each client paid, prosecutors say.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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