MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — A licensed medical doctor is accused of forging hundreds of painkiller prescriptions for a fictitious patient, but what the doctor was doing with the highly-addictive medicine has Montgomery County Police perplexed.
A few weeks before Christmas, Doctor Brandt E. Rice, 50, walked into the Rite Aid pharmacy along River Road in Potomac. He allegedly handed the on-duty pharmacist his driver’s license, DEA card and a prescription for 100 30 mg tablets of Oxycodone. The prescription was for a patient by the name of Aaron Rice, with a birthdate of August 22, 1951.
For legitimacy purposes, Dr. Rice presented the pharmacist with a prepared letter explaining his patient was suffering from prostate cancer, and consequently, was unable to leave his home. The letter further stated the patient's cancer treatment started a decade ago in Maine and was to continue as Dr. Rice and the patient had recently moved to the Washington, D.C. area.
Dr. Rice explained he had a strong working relationship with a Rite Aid in Maine, and hoped to "foster a similar arrangement" with the Rite Aid in Potomac. The goal: to continue the critical cancer treatment in Maryland.
According to charging documents obtained by ABC7, the pharmacist was suspicious of Dr. Rice's claims. She informed the doctor she needed to verify certain elements before completing the order. The following day, the pharmacist called Montgomery County Police, which launched a nearly four-month probe into Dr. Rice and his prescription writing history.
While searching Rite Aid's internal computer database, investigators say they discovered Dr. Rice obtained 316 prescriptions for Aaron Rice between January 2011 and December 2017. The vast majority of those prescriptions were for Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. Police say that in 2017 alone, Dr. Rice collected 11,600 30 mg tablets of Oxycodone for Aaron Rice — an average of 225 tablets per week. Investigators note that Dr. Rice paid for all of the drugs, never using insurance.
Montgomery County Police contacted Maryland's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to further delve into Dr. Rice's past. The agency "collects and securely stores" certain prescription medicine orders, in large part, to track the "illegal or inappropriate prescribing, dispensing or use of prescription drugs."
PDMP's database showed Dr. Rice successfully filled four Oxycodone prescriptions at pharmacies in Bethesda and Potomac between December 14 and December 23, 2017. Each prescription was for a patient by the name of Aaron Rice. The pharmacies were: Giant at 10400 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, Giant at 7142 Arlington Road in Bethesda, Glen Echo Pharmacy at 7311 MacArthur Boulevard in Bethesda and Rite Aid at 10134 River Road in Potomac.
Detectives collected surveillance video from all four pharmacies. The clips allegedly show Rice drop off and later pick up the painkiller prescriptions.
One of the primary objectives of the multi-month investigation was to locate Aaron Rice. Dr. Rice's note listed the cancer patient’s address as 6108 Battery Lane in Bethesda, which police point out, does not exist. A former mailing address for Aaron Rice in Brooklin, Maine, also turned out to be fake. Law enforcement in Montgomery County and Maine searched multiple local and national databases for an Aaron Rice with a birthdate of August 22, 1951, but came up empty-handed.
"All investigative routes were exhausted and nothing indicated that the person [Dr.] Rice obtained medication for, 'Aaron Rice,’ existed," police wrote in charging documents.
In March, Montgomery County authorities interviewed Dr. Rice in person. He claimed he had no current contact information for Aaron Rice and was puzzled as to why his loyal cancer patient of some 10 years had suddenly vanished.
The same detective spoke with Dr. Rice's wife, Anne, who explained she had been the "receptionist" at her husband's now-defunct practice in Maine. Although responsible for arranging medical appointments, Anne Rice stated she had no recollection of a patient by the name of Aaron Rice.
In mid-April, Montgomery County Police formally filed eight criminal charges against Dr. Rice: four counts of unlawfully obtaining prescription drugs by forging a prescription and four counts of possessing a controlled dangerous substance.
Despite the pending criminal charges, online government databases in Maryland and Maine list Dr. Rice's medical license as both active and in good standing. A voice message left at the Maryland Board of Physicians, which oversees medical licenses within the Free State, was not immediately returned.
According to multiple websites, Dr. Rice attended the George Washington University School of Medicine, graduating in 2001. He fulfilled his medical residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington state and Naval Hospital Yokosuka in Japan.
For a number of years, Dr. Rice operated, Coastal Family Medicine in Blue Hill, Maine, a small town of around 2,600 people, located roughly 140 miles northeast of Portland, Maine. The Ellsworth American, a small weekly paper in Maine, profiled Dr. Rice in 2009. The article highlighted Dr. Rice’s unorthodox family practice, which did not accept health insurance, but rather offered a "fee-for-service" structure where patients were "expected to make payment in full at the conclusion of a visit."
"What a surprise to meet a doctor with the humility and kindness of a monk,” a former Coastal Family Medicine patient wrote on Vitals.com, a website that helps consumers receive high-quality medical care.
According to Google, the brick and mortar practice has been "permanently closed,” with no explanation provided as to why.
Dr. Rice and his family recently moved from Maine to Montgomery County to help care for his aging mother. Neighbors explain she's since been placed in an assisted living facility, but Dr. Rice, his wife, their daughter, and family dog remain in the two-level home along the 6500-block of 80th Street in Cabin John.
"He did what," one neighbor, who also happens to be a physician, asked with a flabbergasted look upon her face. "I cannot believe it. I just can't."
Most neighbors explain they’ve seen Dr. Rice coming and going from the home, but haven't taken the time to strike up much conversation. His wife is often seen walking the dog.
It's unclear if Dr. Rice has retained legal counsel. No criminal defense attorney is listed in court paperwork. The 50-year-old's slew of drug-related charges could result in up to 12 years in prison and/or $24,000 in fines. A spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office explained his agency is willing to work with federal partners if the facts, in this case, lead them in that direction.