The Drug Dealers Next Door

My childhood neighbor’s house was raided by the FBI in Spring 2015, shortly after their Methadone clinic was shut down. I was living in Pittsburgh at the time, residing in the Alcoa Building downtown and trying to figure out why everyone with a degree wanted to work for an evil corporation.

If only I’d been living at home….I still can’t believe that I missed all the action. I heard that there were close to 50 members of the SWAT team surrounding their large stucco house on the hill. Some had even climbed the mature trees that surrounded the neighborhood!

I remember feeling sympathy for the Letterman’s. Sure, they had passed my father a few bad checks at one of his businesses, and they were a bit flashy in flaunting their income, but it was always my understanding that Ricki and Stan Letterman were helping a lot of addicts in some of the poorest neighboring counties.

I’d hung out with the two brothers until we hit Middle School, but the girls were much too young to befriend. The guys and I liked to race each other on bikes down the private road that ran between the empty lots that separated our homes. We also liked sneaking into the newly built houses awaiting sale. One night Stan caught the boys and me watching Cinemax, the first porno of my youth. All innocent, and really nothing worth writing about.

My mother liked Ricki because she had a big mouth and was fun to sit next to at the various Hampton sporting events. My father liked Stan because he seemed to be the only other man in the exclusive enclave that didn’t give a fuck about what the neighbors thought. My family and the Letterman’s often left Christmas decorations up until the Spring. We both also seemed to be the only people more interested in going on lavish vacations instead of buying 15 new pine trees to decorate the yard.

Stan had the same laisse-faire attitude towards vehicle maintenance as my father, and they both enjoyed dumping garbage in the empty lots. Really, the Letterman’s were the perfect neighbors, and since five acres separated the properties, we never heard from them unless we wanted to.

It was the early 2000s when we noticed that things seemed to be going extremely well financially for our neighbors on the hill. Expensive new cars kept appearing in the driveway, and their wardrobe had shifted from Marshall’s chic to Burberry, Lacoste, and Prada. We found out through the neighborhood gossip that the Letterman’s had opened a methadone clinic 30 miles south of our affluent township.

I just don’t understand how someone could be getting rich from a state-regulated drug program,” my father said more than once.

Ricki had been clean from narcotics for decades, even working as a substance abuse counselor, and she was named President of the newly formed company. They eventually started prescribing Suboxone, offering group therapy, and opened a treatment facility named after Ricki’s mom.

The Letterman’s also added an inground swimming pool, remodeled the basement, and threw on a towering addition so the girls could have separate bedrooms. Even with the money, the Letterman’s remained my favorite neighbors because they never acted like it made them better than anyone else. When it became well known in my teens that I had a serious drug problem, Stan was always nice to me when he came into one of Father’s stores. He always made a point to stop and say ‘hi’ if I was outside doing yard work when he came home.

Most of the other neighbors would barely look at me, and I’m pretty sure they blamed my parents for ‘not getting something right’. Luckily, situated on the hill as we were above the entire plan, both our families could look down on these small-minded people. And yes, when they went through their own issues, as everyone does, we were kind. But behind closed doors, we all felt vindicated.

I left home for college at 18 and spent most of my time in different cities along the east coast until I moved back to Pittsburgh in early 2015. I’d almost forgotten about my eccentric neighbors when I received a text from Andrea that simply said OMG, with links to various news articles.

The Lettermans’ Methadone/Suboxone clinic had been raided not once, but twice in the past few weeks by the FBI. Several local news outlets had picked up the story, and even though I was at work and supposed to be helping our neediest client, I spent the rest of the day reading every article I could find.

You can do your own research, but the gist was that the Medical Director, aided by Ricki, had unlawfully prescribed over 300 narcotics. There was also a long list of procedural violations and claims of defrauding the healthcare companies. Later, I did some light detective work and found some hefty judgments against the Letterman’s. I was hooked on the drama and even found the blog Ricki had started to chronical her story from ‘rags to riches to rags’. Her words, not mine.

In 2017, a judge sentenced Ricki to a year and a day in federal prison. At first, I felt bad for her and the family, since they had done a lot to help addicts in the area. So maybe they were skimming a little off the top, who wouldn’t?

Also, according to the article that got picked up by CBS, Ricki had only been trying to protect someone else in the company who’d relapsed, hence the Suboxone prescription under a fake name. I just couldn’t understand why they would send a woman with thirty years clean to prison for trying to help others.

All that changed when I got thrown in jail for a DUI and spent 5 long days sharing a cell with a man we will call Devon. I spent the first week sleeping and trying to figure out ways to pull the Plexiglas off the tiny window, but when I finally reached my sleep debt, I began to talk to Devon.

After exchanging some background information, we discovered that we were both Hampton natives. When I told him what street I grew up on he got excited and told me that some of his family still lived there.

Turns out the Letterman’s were Devon’s favorite Aunt and Uncle, and he’d spent years of his life living in their enormous house. That’s when I finally got the real story, and I was not disappointed.

Those fraudulent Suboxone prescriptions? They’d all been going to Ricki who’d gotten hooked on the substance years ago.

But how do you know that for sure?” I asked from my top bunk, trying to furiously scribble notes as quietly as possible.

Well it was pretty fucking obvious, but one day Stan and I found hundreds of open strips in the back seat of the truck when we came back from New York”.

I also learned plenty of other interesting details, mostly financial, but we don’t need to get into all of that.

The real story here is a woman who is currently blogging about being clean for 30 plus years and lamenting the demise of her business and wealth. How can she reconcile that with abusing Suboxone (from her own clinic) for years?

Sometimes I still read Ricki’s blog because it’s absolute disregard for facts is entertaining. Sad, but fun to read.

I’ve stopped following the drama as closely since I finally got the answers I was looking for, but I did hear from a friend that Ricki was released sometime last month.

Yeah as soon as she gets out they are opening up a new clinic in Florida under someone else’s name,” Devon told me shortly before I left for yet another rehab.

I guess she had a good run for twenty years, so why not try again in a state known for its lax standards on rehabs, recovery houses, and of course, Suboxone clinics.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with helping yourself while trying to help others.