Federal Jury Convicts Arlington Doctor of Illegal Opioid Distribution

Federal Jury Convicts Arlington Doctor of Illegal Opioid Distribution

A federal jury today convicted an Arlington woman of illegally prescribing and distributing oxycodone pills, a controlled substance.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Kirsten Van Steenberg Ball, 69, issued prescriptions for over one million oxycodone pills. Ball was a primary care physician who operated a medical practice out of her home in Arlington. She conspired with her office manager, Candy Marie Calix, 41, of Front Royal, to shield from law enforcement and regulatory authorities the fact that she was dispensing vast quantities of oxycodone to her patients — contrary to ordinary standards of medical care.

“Dr. Kirsten Ball’s actions, as detailed by the evidence presented at trial and accepted by the jury, are a perversion of the role of medical practitioners in prescribing opioids,” said Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Medication meant to be carefully provided to people in severe pain was instead prescribed excessively – with no regard for patients’ safety or where the pills would end up.”

The Virginia Department of Health Professions (DHP) investigated Ball in 2014 and 2015, then again in 2021 for excessive and improper prescribing of oxycodone. Evidence and testimony presented at trial showed that Ball falsified records that she submitted to DHP to cover up the fact that she was prescribing oxycodone to patients for no legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice.

Court records showed that Calix was herself a patient of Ball. Ball prescribed Calix approximately 50,000 oxycodone pills over a period of approximately 10 years. Following the first DHP investigation, Ball directed Calix to use a false name in her capacity as office manager to hide the fact that Calix was receiving oxycodone from Ball.

Additionally, evidence presented at trial revealed that Ball directed Calix to recruit other individuals — including several of Calix’s immediate family members — to become pain patients of Dr. Ball’s so that she could prescribe similarly large quantities of oxycodone to them. Calix, in turn, then sold the tens of thousands of oxycodone pills that Ball prescribed to them.

Evidence and testimony presented at trial showed that Ball prescribed oxycodone to drug traffickers and drug addicts in exchange for hundreds of dollars. In addition, several patients became addicted while receiving oxycodone. Ball generally did not accept new patients unless an established patient vouched for them. This was because, as Ball told Calix, she feared that an unvetted new patient could be an undercover law enforcement officer.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was able to introduce an undercover individual purporting to be the nephew of an existing patient. In recorded conversations, the undercover told Ball that he was sharing pills with his family members. In response, Ball told the undercover that was “a felony,” that she would simply not write it down in his patient file, and not to tell anybody else. She continued to prescribe escalating quantities of oxycodone to the undercover.

Additional evidence presented at trial from Ball’s own medical files revealed that, even after the Virginia Board of Medicine sanctioned Ball in 2015 for her prescribing practices, Ball continued to prescribe oxycodone to patients showing blatant signs of drug dependence, abuse, diversion, and addiction. For example, she continued to prescribe to multiple patients who submitted urine tests that were positive for illegal drugs, writing that the failed drug tests were caused by eating poppy seeds and using hand lotion containing cocaine. Ball also continued to prescribe to multiple patients that had been arrested and convicted for selling illegal drugs as well as for selling the oxycodone that she prescribed. Further, Ball continued to prescribe to multiple patients who asked for early refills of oxycodone based on unsubstantiated claims of lost or stolen pills. She prescribed multiple patients as many as 360 oxycodone 30-mg tablets per month, and prescribed similarly high quantities of oxycodone to multiple members of families, spouses, and close friends.

Ball was also shown to have paid patients to perform manual labor on her home and vehicles, sometimes while concurrently prescribing the patients oxycodone, ostensibly for long-term pain. She had three of her patients providing unpaid cleaning services at her home bi-weekly for a number of years during the conspiracy.

Ball was convicted on 20 counts and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison as to each count of conviction when sentenced on Febr. 27, 2024. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Calix was sentenced to seven years in prison on September 28, 2022, for conspiring to distribute oxycodone.