Pubdate: Fri, 23 May 2003
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Jim Todd, of The Daily Independent
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


Doctor Sentenced For Illegally Prescribing Controlled Substances

GREENUP -- A former South Shore doctor found guilty last month of seven 
counts of illegally prescribing controlled substances was sentenced 
Thursday in Greenup Circuit Court to 16 years in prison.

Rodolfo Santos, 65, who was indicted in June on the seven counts, was 
sentenced by Greenup Circuit Judge Lewis Nicholls to three years each on 
two of the charges and two years each on the other five, all to run 
consecutively, as the jury recommended. Each of the charges had a maximum 
penalty of five years.

Santos entered an Alford plea Thursday to 11 separate counts of illegally 
prescribing narcotic painkillers. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not 
admit guilt, but acknowledges that there is sufficient evidence for a 

In a plea agreement with Greenup Commonwealth's Attorney Cliff Duvall on 
the second set of charges, on which he was indicted in November, Santos 
agreed that the sentences on the 11 counts would run concurrently with the 
sentences on the first seven counts.

Santos is the fifth doctor who practiced in Greenup and Lewis counties the 
past few years to have been found guilty or pleaded guilty to similar 
charges in state and federal courts.

Duvall had said Santos wrote prescriptions for more than 2.5 million pills 
to more than 2,500 patients during a 17-month period beginning in 2001. 
Those patients each paid $120 cash before receiving their prescriptions at 
the Plaza Healthcare in South Shore, which Duvall called a "clearinghouse 
for drugs."

Santos' medical license was suspended in June by the Kentucky Board of 
Medical Licensure, which has stated that seven of Santos' patients have 
died of apparent overdoses of controlled substances in the past two years.

Larry Bailey of Grayson, whose 35-year-old son Paul is one of the seven 
patients who have died, spoke directly to Santos as he addressed the court 
and asked Nicholls to give Santos maximum sentences.

Bailey said it was Santos' "lust and greed for money" that killed his son, 
who had suffered a back injury and previously had been prescribed OxyContin 
by a Grayson doctor. When the OxyContin made his son terribly ill, Paul 
Bailey became a patient of Santos, who prescribed Lorcet painkillers and 
Xanax anxiety relievers, Larry Bailey said.

Bailey's son entered a local drug rehabilitation program, but was so 
addicted to the prescriptions from Santos, he could not stop taking them, 
his father said.

Instead of getting help for his son, Bailey said Santos was "feeding his 
addiction. You sir, are a phony, a fake and a quack and a disgrace to your 
Hippocratic oath."

Defense attorney Michael Curtis later said he disagreed with Mr. Bailey's 

"While we are extremely sorry for the loss of their son, Dr. Santos was not 
responsible for his death. You can rest assured if he had been, they would 
have charged him with wanton murder.

"The pills his son took could have come from numerous sources," Curtis 
said. "If I was Mr. Bailey, I would be upset with the doctor who prescribed 
OxyContin for his son."

Nicholls said he had considered conditional discharge and probation for 
Santos, but to do so would depreciate the seriousness of the former 
physician's actions. Nicholls said Santos will serve his term at the 
Kentucky State Reformatory at LaGrange.

Duvall, who said he thought the 16-year sentence was appropriate, added 
that he will object to Santos' parole when he becomes eligible in 38 or 39 

"These (former physicians) have been out there killing people and then 
signing their death certificates," said Duvall, who added that Santos did 
sign a death certificate for one of his patients who died of an overdose.

"Santos signed that the death was caused by cardio-respiratory failure," 
Duvall said. "Yes, the person's heart stopped and the person stopped 

Duvall said he took the second set of charges to a grand jury because "if 
the left one won't get you, the right one will," adding "we tried the right 

Former physician David Procter, who owned the Plaza Healthcare where he, 
Santos and three other former doctors practiced, has pleaded guilty in U.S. 
District Court to one count of conspiracy and two counts of illegally 
prescribing controlled substances. Procter also testified against Santos at 
last month's trial.

Procter, who faces up to 151 months in prison, will be fined $250,000 when 
he is sentenced Aug. 18 in Ashland by U.S. District Judge Henry R. Wilhoit Jr.

The other three doctors who have pleaded guilty pleas or been convicted of 
prescription drug charges are Fortune Williams, Frederick Cohn and Steven 
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