BLUEFIELD — A single prescription could cost a Princeton podiatrist up to five years in prison and $250,000.

Dr. Robert Knox, 47, of Princeton, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Tuesday to one count of illegally distributing hydrocodone to a Green Valley tattoo artist working undercover.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Miller Bushong III outlined the April 29, 2005 incident that led the physician that once maintained offices at 401 Rogers St. in Princeton and in Southwest Virginia to admit a felony.

It all started with a phone call from Mike White, who operated the Dragon’s Den tattoo parlor and been acting as an informant and cooperating individual for the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.

Although the doctor had examined White for a lacerated ear in September 2004, Bushong said he never saw Mike White that day. In fact, Bushong said the doctor-patient relationship never extended past the initial 2004 visit.

Still Bushong said Knox ended the conversation with White and either phoned CVS pharmacy or assigned his staffers to order a 30-pill prescription for the schedule III controlled substance, a painkiller popular among recreational users.

“This doctor had not seen Mike White,” Bushong said. “He simply called in the prescription at Mike White’s request.”

When investigators questioned Knox concerning the incident, the government attorney said the doctor attempted a cover-up, first telling authorities he had seen White April 29 and found a need for the medication. Confronted with the lie, Bushong said he then admitted he had not examined White.

Speaking for himself, Knox said his fault rested in poor documentation rather than a deliberate intent to distribute drugs.

“I didn’t keep accurate enough records on Mike White,” Knox told Judge David A. Faber. “I should have examined him again.”

Rather than taking chances with a federal grand jury and trial proceedings, Knox waived his right to indictment by agreeing to a formal court charge called an “information” and pleading to the offense.

Knox stood composed before Judge David Faber, as he handed down a $10,000 unsecured bond, allowing Knox to remain free until his April 6 sentencing date.

White died less than a month after the incident that led to Knox’s charge.

An unidentified gunman fired a fatal shot in the parking lot of the Dragon’s Den May 19, just off of U.S. 460. Although authorities have reviewed evidence and presented witnesses before a federal grand jury, no one has been charged with the homicide that killed “Tattoo Mike.”

Well-known and well-connected in both the legal and drug communities, White had been secretly collecting evidence for drug investigators for more than a year when he died. As a result of the surveillance he secured, Maurice and Tonya Gibson, Christina “Tina” Arnoto, Robert “Boo Boo” Gravely and Hector “Chico” Reinat were all charged with a variety of drug distribution, conspiracy and money laundering offenses.

Tonya Gibson, Arnoto and Gravely have already pleaded guilty in exchange for more lenient sentences and their cooperation.

How, or if, any of the other defendants were involved in the Knox prescription was unclear this week, but Bushong said Arnoto was unwittingly involved in the operation.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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