Doctor sentenced for trading painkillers for sex - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Doctor sentenced for trading painkillers for sex

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - An east county doctor who exchanged painkillers for sexual favors was sentenced in federal court Monday.  

Naga Raja Thota, a pain specialist with an office in El Cajon, pleaded guilty to charges of distributing and dispensing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose. 

For the crime, 62-year-old Thota could have faced the maximum penalty of 20 years in custody, $1 million dollar fine and lifetime supervised release, but instead he got 30 months in prison, 5 years probation. 

The sentence stemmed from a plea agreement in which Thota admitted that he fraudulently and illegally wrote prescriptions for hundreds of oxycodone and hydrocodone tablets for two patients who became his sex partners. 

"The relationship became a sex for drugs relationship," said Thomas P. Lennox  a Supervisor Special Agent with DEA. "He was prescribing prescriptions to addicts, then he engaged in a personal relationship, a sexual relationship with some of his patients." 

According to the underlying complaint, one victim said she met Thota when she was hospitalized for withdrawal symptoms for hydrocodone and alprazolam. Thota agreed to treat her but documented that his treatment was for pain - though this victim did not suffer from any medical condition that caused chronic or ongoing pain.  

This victim, who was 20 years old at the time, said Thota kept increasing her dosage of opioids causing her to use heroin. 

"We all need to be able to trust our physicians, and when we lose that trust, we're physically harmed and we can't have that happening in our community," said Lennox. 

In his plea agreement, Thota admitted he prescribed drugs in the names of a brother and father of a victim in order to supply her with painkillers.  

"Pain pill addiction has become a serious public health problem that is causing an increasing number of fatal overdoses nationwide. To make matters worse, in this instance prescription opiate addiction led, as is often the case, straight to a dangerous heroin habit," said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson. "We will continue to vigorously enforce the law against doctors who abuse the prescribing privilege and exploit desperate addicts for their own purposes." 

"Today a doctor, someone who held the public trust, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for prescribing powerful pain killers in exchange for sexual favors", says DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William Sherman. "DEA will continue to investigate anyone who does not take that public trust to heart and who is registered with DEA to dispense these dangerous and potentially deadly drugs." 

Thota was charged with seven felony counts and five years of federal probation. 

Relief, for one victim inside the courtroom Monday. 

"I think they very much felt closure and were very happy with the sentence also," Lennox said. "He will also be unable to work as a physician ever again, his medical license has been taken away. He will never be allowed to victimize anyone else again." 

But once he's released from prison, can the doctor practice again?

"If he goes into another state and attempts to obtain a medical license, they will check his criminal record," said Lennox. 

The female victims said the doctor also offered them expensive jewelry, car payments and cash.

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