A former Columbia, Tenn., medical doctor has been sentenced to three years in prison for unlawfully distributing controlled substances. 

66-year-old Dr. Darrel R. Rinehart, of Indianapolis, Ind., practiced medicine in Columbia for decades before he was charged and pleaded guilty in 2019 to unlawfully distributing a variety of controlled substances over the course of three years.

Rinehart’s sentencing was announced in a Department of Justice news release on Wednesday. According to a separate 2019 DOJ news release, Rinehart admitted to knowingly distributing hydrocodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, to a patient in 2016 who did not have any significant underlying health issues to justify the prescription. 

Rinehart also admitted to distributing other Schedule II controlled substances, primarily opioids, to four different patients without any medical reasoning on 18 occasions between December 2014 and December 2015.

The Tennessean reported that over the course of 11 months, five of Rinehart’s patients died of overdoses, then Rinehart relocated to Indiana where he continued to practice medicine.

Rinehart was originally scheduled to be sentenced for his crimes in July of 2020 by Chief U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr., but as many court proceedings were suspended throughout 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Rinehart was sentenced to prison on June 15.

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