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Mount Pleasant doctor guilty of drug trafficking

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A Mount Pleasant doctor has been found guilty in federal court of illegal distribution of a controlled substance.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, Dr. Ronald Hargrave, 60, accompanied a female patient to a Walgreens pharmacy in Columbia in May 2015 to fill a prescription for Xanax, a controlled substance.

The pharmacist on duty refused to fill the prescription because the doctor and patient were from out of town and it was atypical for a doctor to accompany a patient to present a prescription. The pharmacist called the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control the following day to report the activity.

In April 2017, Drug Enforcement Administration investigator Adam Roberson connected the 2015 events to an incident in March 2017, in which Hargrave met a different woman in the Moncks Corner medical clinic where he worked and had sex with her in exchange for $300 cash and four prescriptions for controlled substances, including Xanax and oxycodone.

Hargrave was employed at Palmetto Flight Physicals, which provides medical exams required for pilots by the Federal Aviation Administration. He was fired from the clinic within hours of issuing the painkillers to the woman, according to the news release.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the release that the seven counts on which Hargrave was found guilty during a four-day trial in Charleston were related to his relationships with these two women, as well as two other individuals for whom Hargrave wrote opioid prescriptions for nonmedical reasons.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in a federal prison and a fine of $1 million. District Judge Margaret Seymour will sentence Hargrave later.

Hargrave was issued an S.C. medical license in 1985, according to S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation records.

In 2017, Hargrave was reprimanded (.pdf) by the S.C. Board of Medical Examiners for inappropriate prescribing and recordkeeping. He had prescribed high doses of opioids with alprazolam, clonazepam and Ambien, the board wrote in its order, which put the patient at a high risk of respiratory depression and suicide. Hargrave also kept insufficient records about his assessment of patients and their treatment goals, the order said.

In addition to being publicly reprimanded by the board, Hargrave was also ordered to complete courses in recordkeeping and prescribing and pay $400 to cover the cost of the board’s investigation.

Two phone calls to Hargrave were not answered and a voicemail message and email were not returned by press time.

Reach Patrick Hoff at 843-849-3144.

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