Thursday, June 30, 2022
June 30, 2022

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Tri-Cities medical receptionist doled out illegal prescriptions for opioids. She’s going to prison

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KENNEWICK — The receptionist and office manager for a Tri-Cities doctor has been sentenced to four years in prison for her role in a “pill mill” operating out of the medical office.

Danielle Mata, 44, of Richland, has been locked up in the Benton County jail since the court found in December 2021 that she failed to comply with conditions of her release after pleading guilty to seven counts of distributing oxycodone pills or fentanyl patches or conspiring to distribute those or similar prescription medications.

Mata was not sentenced until this month after testifying for the U.S. Department of Justice in the sentencing hearing of Dr. Janet Arnold.

Arnold, 63, of Benton City, also was sentenced to four years in prison in late April.

Arnold owned Desert Wind Family Practice on Wellsian Way in Richland, where she hired addicts, including Mata, and then gave them blank prescription scripts she had signed until her office was raided by Drug Enforcement Administration agents five years ago.

Mata was originally a patient of Arnold’s, before becoming an employee of her practice in March 2016.

Arnold would sign blank prescription scripts and Mata, who was not trained or legally authorized to do so, would fill in the drug type, dosage and quantity.

Defendants in the case gave the illegal prescriptions to people or used them personally to get their drug of choice from area pharmacies, according to court documents.

Defendants in the case pushed thousands of pills on the street to be abused by addicts, and potentially caused others to become addicted to controlled substances, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern Washington.

Mata will be given credit on her four-year sentence for time served in the Benton County jail.

Others in opioid prescription case

She was ordered to await sentencing in jail after repeatedly failing to report for urine tests, tampering with a urine test and being discharged from an addiction treatment facility for nonattendance, according to a court document. She admitted to violating terms of release by using methamphetamine and fentanyl in November 2021.

She also failed to report to her probation officer within 24 hours that police had been called to her house when her husband overdosed that month, according to a court document.

In addition to sentencing Mata to prison, U.S. Judge Edward Shea sentenced her to five years of supervised release.

Mata’s husband asked the court for leniency, saying she took full responsibility for her actions and was aware of the harm she caused in the community.

He said she had helped the prosecution, giving them any information she had that would help them build their case against other defendants in the case.

Earlier, David Barnes Nay, 43, of Kennewick, Mata’s brother-in-law, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison in the case after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute eight controlled substances and six counts of distributing fentanyl and oxycodone.

Lisa Marie Cooper, 55, of Prosser, another defendant in the case, was was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possess and two counts of distributing controlled substances.

The remaining defendant in the case, Jennifer Cheri Prichard, 46, of Prosser, a volunteer in Arnold’s office, is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court May 24 after pleading guilty on similar charges in the conspiracy.

She also testified for the prosecution in Arnold’s sentencing hearing.

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