Pubdate: Sat, 26 Apr 2003
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2003 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Lee Mueller


Procter agrees to plea, testifies against ex-partner

GREENUP -One day after reaching a tentative plea agreement with federal
prosecutors, Dr. David Procter appeared in Greenup Circuit Court yesterday
to rebut testimony by a physician on trial for alleged prescription-drug
violations last year at Procter's clinic.

Procter, target of a major federal investigation into drug-pushing by
physicians in northeastern Kentucky, said he recruited the defendant, Dr.
Rodolfo Santos, in 2001 to work at Plaza Healthcare in South Shore.

Procter agreed the place was nothing more than a pill clinic dispensing
narcotics to addicts.

"I explained to him that most of the patients he would see really did not
require medical treatment, but if he wrote prescriptions, he would make
money and I would make money," Procter said.

"He had no problem with that."

Procter, 52, a Canadian-born physician who moved to South Shore in 1977, had
been scheduled to stand trial in U.S. District Court at Ashland Monday on
prescription-drug conspiracy charges with two former employees described by
federal prosecutors as ex-office managers.

Instead, Procter told the Greenup County jury yesterday that he tentatively
has agreed to a prison sentence of 10 years and one month, without
possibility of parole, and a $250,000 fine.

He is expected to plead guilty on Monday in Ashland and has agreed to
cooperate with federal prosecutors in the cases against his alleged
co-conspirators, Mary Katherine Dials and Nancy Jane Sadler, both of Ohio.

Procter said a part of the agreement to cooperate with federal prosecutors
did not include testifying against Santos in state court.

Santos, 65, of Myersdale, Pa., was one of the last of about 16 physicians
who worked at the South Shore clinic after 1998 when Procter was injured in
an auto accident and later surrendered his medical license in 2000.

Unlike three doctors who were indicted on state or federal prescription-drug
charges after leaving South Shore, Santos was still at Plaza Healthcare last
June when he was arrested on charges that he twice improperly prescribed
controlled substances to paid informant Mary Reed of Sciotoville, Ohio.

Both Santos and his attorney, Michael Curtis of Ashland, appeared surprised
by Procter's testimony.

"He's a crook," Santos snorted afterward. "He's so dirty."

Curtis suggested Procter had made a last-minute deal with federal
prosecutors to "sell his soul."

He noted that Procter, under cross-examination, had admitted swapping pills
for sex with at least two people named in the federal indictment and had
fathered a child with Dials.

"He shows he has no respect for anyone in order to maintain his insatiable,
hedonistic lifestyle," Curtis said.

Santos had testified that the clinic was in "disarray" when he arrived on
May 14, 2001.

He said he found records askew, patients fighting and hurling bottles in the
waiting room -- and tried to make it productive and responsible.

He said he ran the clinic and dismissed about 400 of 2,500 patients for
doctor shopping or selling prescriptions.

Under cross-examination yesterday, he said his salary was quickly raised
from $2,500 to $4,000 a week and conceded that Procter sometimes gave him an
extra $20 in cash to be spent "at a good restaurant."

Procter testified yesterday, however, that the extra cash was closer to $500
to $700 a week.

In testimony, Santos indicated he initially was unclear about ownership of
the clinic.

Procter, however, pointed at Santos and said "he was hired by me to work in
the clinic" in the spring of 2001.

"I explained to him that I owned the clinic," Procter said. "I did the
hiring and firing, and I controlled the practice and all administrative

"I made it very clear to him that he was going to see people who were
chemically dependent on drugs," he said. "I told him I would make it
financially worthwhile to him."

Procter said he agreed to pay Santos $2,500 a week, "plus a cash dividend at
the end of the week, based on the number of patients he saw and the number
of prescriptions he wrote.

"The more prescriptions he wrote, the more patients would come to the
clinic," Procter said. "He had an incentive to write more prescriptions."

Santos testified yesterday he tried to wean his patients from narcotic drugs
and never saw more than 50 patients a day.

Procter said he was not aware of such efforts, but conceded Santos initially
was treating only 25 or 30 patients a day.

"I told him he needed to see more patients and write more prescriptions so
we could make more money," said Procter, who said Santos began seeing 60 or
70 patients a day by spending less time with them and working longer hours.

Reed, the informant, testified that Santos coached her on pain symptoms, but
Santos denied it.

Procter said he arranged for Reed, a former patient, to be seen by Santos.
He said Santos "definitely" coached his patients.

"I heard him say, 'You hurt here. You hurt there,'" Procter said. "He was
leading these patients."

Commonwealth's Attorney Clifford Duvall appeared pleased with the testimony
from his surprise witness.

"In all my life as a lawyer, I've never had a Perry Mason moment," he said,
grinning. "I'd say this is it."

Procter declined comment after leaving the courthouse alone.

Duvall said he was not surprised Procter and his attorney, Scott C. Cox of
Louisville, had agreed to plea bargain his federal case.

"He's a smart man. His lawyer's a smart man," Duvall said. "I guess they
just looked at the evidence, decided it was overwhelming and said, 'We need
to lay our cards on the table.'"

Judge Lewis Nicholls said jury deliberations will begin Monday after closing
statements by attorneys.
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