Sunday, December 20, 2015

California Medical Doctor and Wife Plead Guilty to Obtaining Prescription Drugs for Themselves Prescribing Under Fake Patient Charts. Charge is Conspiring to Acquire Controlled Substances by Fraud and Deception

Drug addiction hits doctors and professionals. We have represented numerous physicians, nurses, attorneys, and professionals with drug and alcohol addiction. Sometimes, the addiction issues create criminal issues in addition to licensing isuses. 

This week, a physician and his wife a MFT intern, who have admitted to addiction issues, pleaded guilty in federal court for improperly obtaining prescription drugs through self-prescribing by the husband doctor.

On December 16, 2015, Dr. Matthew Cole, a dermatologist at Insight Dermatology with offices in San Diego and National City, and his wife, Shireen Cole, who are both in drug treatment programs, pleaded guilty to prescription drug-related charges. They admitted that they conspired to obtain scheduled pharmaceutical drugs commonly known as Percocet, Xanax and Ambien by submitting fraudulent prescriptions to pharmacies as if they were valid.

Dr. Cole used his own prescription pad with his assigned DEA registration number to write prescriptions in the names of friends with whom he had no doctor-patient relationship, and who had no knowledge of the prescriptions written in their names. He also wrote prescriptions for his wife using her maiden name.

For example, Dr. Cole admitted in his plea agreement that he wrote a prescription for 60 10-milligram tablets of Oxycodone in the name of a female college friend and on December 27, 2014, his wife took it to be filled at a CVS Pharmacy. While still in the CVS Pharmacy, Shireen Cole, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist intern, handed the oxycodone tablets over to Dr. Cole.

Although the college friend was never a patient of Dr. Cole, on February 16, 2015, at his medical office, he created a false medical file for that friend, using his status as a licensed medical doctor to create the false appearance of a valid doctor/patient relationship.

In all, the plea agreements listed 39 instances where fraudulent medical prescriptions were used to acquire Scheduled pharmaceutical drugs from pharmacies. These 39 separate instances resulted in the acquisition of 1,820 tablets of scheduled pharmaceutical drugs, 1,280 of which were oxycodone – commonly known as Percocet.  The other drugs were zolpidem tartrate, commonly known as Ambien, and alprazolam, known as Xanax. Since the drugs were not being sold, the charges are not as serious as the maximum sentence on this charge is 4 years.

The Medical Board will be the next part of the case since physicians have to report Indictments or felony guilty pleas. The Medical Board can recognize the addiction issues here and there are many mitigating circumstances that can allow the doctor to save his license.

It is Case No. 15CR3074-H in the Southern District of California (San Diego) and the plea was to counts in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sections 843(a)(3), 843(d)(1), and 846 – Conspiracy to Acquire Controlled Substances by Fraud, Deception, and Subterfuge. The maximum sentence on this charge is 4 years although it would be rare in a case such as this for such a high sentence to be imposed.

Posted by Tracy Green, Esq.


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