TAMPA — His attorney argued that a life behind bars would harm the doctor's fragile health.
But on Thursday, a federal judge sentenced Dr. Ronald John Heromin, 58, of Brandon to 20 years in prison anyway for illicitly prescribing thousands of pain pills around Tampa and Miami.
From late 2009 through October 2011, Heromin served as the prescribing physician at numerous pain clinics, issuing thousands of prescriptions of oxycodone and alprazolam to drug users who often traveled from as far away as Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa.
Prescriptions for more than 500,000 oxycodone pills and 230,000 alprazolam pills, all written by Heromin, were filled at a single outlet — the VIP Pharmacy in Tampa, prosecutors said.
A defense motion pleading for a break in punishment said Heromin suffered from "extraordinary physical impairment," having undergone more than 20 surgeries to correct his spine. Among other ailments, it said, Heromin cannot get out of bed without help, suffers from numbness and weakness in both legs and needs a cane to walk. Prison, the defense argued, would shorten his life expectancy.
Nonetheless, U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington sentenced Heromin to prison and ordered him to pay nearly $2 million, which prosecutors said were his proceeds from the conspiracy.
He was ordered to forfeit disability payments of about $15,000 a month toward meeting that monetary judgment, and also was ordered to surrender his medical license.
Contact Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @zpeterson918.