Medical provider faces 50 charges


ALAMOSA — Nurse practitioner Debra Rice, 62, faces 50 criminal counts related to her medical practice, primarily in prescribing medications, during 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The Colorado Attorney General’s (AG) office in November of 2018 filed 50 charges against Rice, the majority of which were for felony distribution of a controlled substance. She was also charged with forgery and theft.

The State Board of Nursing suspended Rice’s professional nursing license in March of 2017 after investigating the number of prescriptions she was issuing and the deaths of three patients related to drug intoxication. For example, the state board found that Rice had written more than 2,400 prescriptions for controlled substances between January 1 and May 23 of 2016 alone. From January 1, 2016 through February 25, 2017, Rice wrote more than 7,000 prescriptions for controlled substances, according to the state board.

The board found that numerous patients including some from the Denver area would drive to Alamosa to obtain prescriptions for controlled substance from Rice.

According to the state board, Rice provided care to a patient who died on

February 27, 2016. The patient’s autopsy results indicated that he died of methadone intoxication.

Another patient of Rice’s died on May 24 of 2016. That patient’s autopsy results indicated that he died of mixed drug intoxication, according to the state board.

A third patient of Rice’s died on July 25, 2016. The patient’s autopsy results indicated that she died of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease with diabetes mellitus in the setting of drug intoxication.

Rice, R.N., A.P.N., R.X.N., had been practicing at SoCo Medical Services on San Juan Ave in Alamosa. She had been licensed and granted prescriptive authority since 2008. As part of her practice, Rice wrote prescriptions for controlled substances including narcotic pain medications, benzodiazepines, and muscle relaxers.

None of the criminal charges in the current case against Rice address the deaths related to alleged over-prescriptions by Rice.

Rice’s criminal case appeared for a status before Alamosa County Judge Daniel Walzl on Wednesday.

Rice appeared by phone, and her attorney David Lipka appeared in person along with representatives from the AG’s office. First Assistant Attorney General Christa Landis represented the prosecution before the judge.

Lipka and the AG’s office attorneys conferred together before the case was called, and Lipka told Judge Walzl they had had a “very productive discussion.” He asked for a date in March for the preliminary hearing for Rice before Judge Walzl.

Although concluding a jury trial on the dates requested, Judge Walzl scheduled Rice’s preliminary hearing to begin the morning of Friday, March 15 and continue through the afternoon if necessary, recognizing that the judge might have to take breaks to conclude the jury trial.

Landis said the prosecution had four witnesses, and she expected the preliminary hearing could be completed in two and a half hours, to which Lipka agreed. Judge Walzl said he would schedule the entire afternoon just in case they needed it.

Lipka added that he and the AG’s office expected to have additional productive discussions in the weeks to come, and if his client chose to waive her right to a preliminary hearing, he would make sure the court was notified well in advance of the March 15 hearing.

Lipka added that his client gave him permission to schedule the preliminary hearing beyond the 35 days in which she had the right to have it.

Judge Walzl delineated 19 charges out of the 50 total charges for which he believed Rice was eligible for a preliminary hearing. The charges eligible for a preliminary hearing were all felony 2 charges. The other charges against Rice were primarily felony 3 charges, although she also faces three felony 5 charges and one misdemeanor charge. Felony 2 charges are more serious than felony 3 or 5 charges.

Following are the criminal charges filed against Rice:

1) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between September 14, 2015 and May 2, 2016

2) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) between November 9, 2015 and January 12, 2016

3) Distribution of a controlled substance (Oxycodone) between July 26, 2015 and September 7, 2016

4) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) between August 24, 2016 and September 6, 2016

5) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between April 20, 2015 and April 14, 2016

6) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) between June 9, 2015 and April 14, 2016

7) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) between June 25, 2015 and April 14, 2016

8) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between July 16, 2015 and May 10, 2016

9) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between April 24, 2015 and March 6, 2017

10) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) about August 31, 2015

11) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) between May 24, 2016 and March 6, 2017

12) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between February 16, 2015 and February 28, 2017

13) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) between February 16, 2015 and February 15, 2016

14) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) between May 5, 2016 and July 5, 2016

15) Distribution of a controlled substance (Oxycodone) between April 6, 2015 and November 30, 2015

16) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) between August 5, 2015 and February 22, 2016

17) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between July 9, 2015 and February 13, 2017

18) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) between November 6, 2015 and December 21, 2016

19) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between October 16, 2015 and November 3, 3016

20) Distribution of a controlled substance (Oxycodone) between January 15, 2015 and November 19, 2015

21) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) between March 5, 2015 and June 25, 2015

22) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Methadone) between January 15, 2015 and December 28, 2015

23) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between July 31, 2015 and February 16, 2017

24) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) between July 23, 2015 and August 22, 2015

25) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between January 8, 2015 and February 13, 2017

26) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) between July 6, 2015 and June 22, 2016

27) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between January 15, 2016 and February 21, 2017

28) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) on about January 14, 2016

29) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) on about January 28, 2016

30) Distribution of a controlled substance (Oxycodone) between October 30, 2015 and January 1, 2016

31) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) between October 30, 2015 and January 11, 2016

32) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between November 24, 2014 and February 22, 2017

33) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Methadone) between April 24, 2015 and February 20, 2017

34) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between June 23, 2015 and December 28, 2015

35) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) on about November 12, 2015

36) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) between June 25, 2015 and November 18, 2015

37) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between October 27, 2015 and June 3, 2016

38) Distribution of a controlled substance (Methadone) between October 23, 2015 and May 2, 2016

39) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between December 8, 2014 and January 31, 2017

40) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Methadone) between February 26, 2015 and January 31, 2017

41) Distribution of a controlled substance (Oxycodone) between January 7, 2015 and July 24, 2015

42) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Oxycodone) between December 8, 2014 and March 6, 2017

43) Distribution of a controlled substance (between 14 and 225 grams Methadone) between December 1, 2014 and March 6, 2017

44) Distribution of a controlled substance (Fentanyl) between March 6, 2015 and September 28, 2015

45) Distribution of a controlled substance (Oxycodone) between December 7, 2015 and May 4, 2016

46) Distribution of a controlled substance (Hydrocodone) on about November 12, 2015

47) Felony 5 forgery occurring between October 24, 2015 and February 20, 2017 involving the unlawful making or altering of an electronic billing document filed with the State of Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

48) Felony 5 theft of money occurring between October 24, 2015 and February 20, 2017 involving between $5,000-20,000 intended to deprive the State of Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

49) Felony 5 forgery occurring between October 23, 2015 and June 2, 2016 involving the unlawful making or altering of an electronic billing document filed with the State of Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

50) Misdemeanor theft of money occurring between October 23, 2015 and June 2, 2016 involving between $50-300 intended to deprive the State of Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

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