Beaufort doctor pleads guilty to distributing prescription painkillers

A Beaufort doctor could face 11 years in prison after admitting he wrote painkiller prescriptions for people who did not need them.

David Vincent Rhodes, whose has been on indefinite leave from his practice at Lowcountry Medical Group since this past May, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute Oxycontin, Percocet and roxycontin at a federal hearing Monday in Charleston.

Prosecutors said Rhodes has agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation that resulted in the federal grand-jury indictment this past August of 18 others, all from the Beaufort County area, in a roundup by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and U.S. marshals.

All 18 conspired to acquire and sell Oxycodone and cocaine, according to the two-page indictment unsealed last summer. Rhodes was not named in that indictment, but last year authorities said Rhodes was at the center of an investigation shortly after they searched his office in the Shell Point area in May.

In federal court Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Phillips asked that Rhodes receive a sentence of nine to 11 years. He also could be fined $150,000.

Rhodes will not likely be sentenced until the cases against those indicted this past summer are settled, which will take about three months, Phillips said. One of the 18 indicted has pleaded guilty, he said.

It’s not clear if more indictments could follow. Phillips declined further comment on the investigation.

The S.C. Board of Medical Examiners indefinitely suspended Rhodes’ medical license May 7. A letter from the board to Rhodes did not specify the reason for the disciplinary action, state records show.

Check back with the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette for updates later today, or pick up a copy of tomorrow's newspaper. Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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