Santa Barbara Doctor Arrested
updated: Jan 04, 2012, 3:40 PM
Source: United States Attorney's Office
A Santa Barbara physician was arrested this morning on federal drug trafficking
charges for allegedly writing prescriptions for powerful painkillers, such as
OxyContin, for "patients" who were drug addicts - some of whom diverted the
pills they received to the black market and or suffered fatal overdoses from the
Julio Gabriel Diaz, 63, who operates the Family Medical Clinic in
Santa Barbara, was arrested this morning at his Goleta residence by special
agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and officers with the Santa
Barbara Police Department.
Diaz was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint filed in United
States District Court that charges him with distribution of controlled
"The illegal sale and abuse of prescription narcotics is a growing
problem that feeds addictions and leads to other criminal conduct," said United
States Attorney André Birotte Jr. "Many of the illegal prescription drugs that
find their way to the street come from doctors who prescribe them for money
without medical justification. These doctors are drug dealers and they will face
stiff penalties in federal court."
The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint outlines evidence
"that Diaz has written prescriptions for large quantities of controlled
substances that are not medically necessary or indicated. As a result, highly
addictive prescription controlled substances, including oxycodone [a drug often
sold under the brand name OxyContin] and hydrocodone [a drug often sold under
the brand names Vicodin and Norco], have been diverted from legitimate medical
use into the community for an illegitimate use."
The affidavit discusses a series of fatal drug overdoses linked to
narcotics prescribed by Diaz. A patient who died in November 2011 appeared to
have been injecting prescription medication that was prescribed by Diaz. The
investigation into that death found that "in the six weeks before [the
patient]'s death, Diaz prescribed to [the patient] a total of 2,087 pills, or an
average of 63 predominantly Schedule II and III pills per day."
Doctors, nurses and other personnel with Santa Barbara Cottage
Hospital wrote to the Medical Board of California and gave statements to
investigators to complain about Diaz, according to the affidavit. One letter to
the Medical Board said Diaz "is often described as a ‘doctor you can get
anything from' by patients." A therapist in the psychiatric department at
Cottage Hospital told investigators that "people referred to Diaz as the ‘Candy
Man' and that people drove from out of town to see him ‘because they knew he was
the man to go to for drugs.'"
Cottage Hospital doctors believed that Diaz posed such a threat that
they prepared a spreadsheet documenting emergency room visits by patients who
had been prescribed narcotics by Diaz, according to the affidavit. "The
spreadsheet demonstrated Diaz's pattern of over-prescribing and the direct
relationship between the prescriptions received and ER visits and admissions," a
DEA special agent wrote in the affidavit.
Furthermore, two female patients who were admitted to the Cottage
Hospital ER told hospital staff "that they were getting narcotics from Diaz in
exchange for sexual favors," according to the affidavit. "They alluded to
numerous friends also receiving narcotics from Diaz in exchange for sexual
The affidavit also outlines a study by one insurance company that
documents nearly $1 million in claims to the company for prescriptions written
by Diaz over a three-year period.
"Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic levels - in 2010,
about 12 million Americans reported non-medical use of prescription
painkillers," said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge. "DEA is
committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who
endanger our citizens by distributing these dangerous drugs for no medical
purpose are brought to justice."
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has
committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven
Diaz will be held in jail overnight pending a scheduled court
appearance tomorrow afternoon in federal court in Santa Ana.
The charge of illegal distribution of a controlled substance by a
medical practitioner carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison.
The investigation into Diaz was conducted by the Drug Enforcement
Administration and the Santa Barbara Police Department, which received the
assistance of the California Medical Board.
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