In light of the current opioid crisis, a Drug Enforcement probe in Southern California called “Operation Hypocritical Oath” targets doctors, physicians, nurse practitioners, and clinic operators who supply narcotics to the black market or provide controlled substances in violation of their Hippocratic oath to “do no harm.”
U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna commented on this at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles. “We are in the midst of an opioid crisis that has caused untold anguish and death,” Hanna said. “Some in the medical community are stoking the fires, flooding our communities with prescription opioids.”
Prosecutors have charged practitioners and doctors alike with writing illegal prescriptions. Some wrote prescriptions knowing their “patients” we addict, while others used their job to acquire illegal narcotics.
Among the arrested was Gabriel Hernandez. A 58-year-old physician from Anaheim, he worked at a clinic for pain management. Allegedly, Hernandez wrote a prescription for the three drugs and gave them to a man who died from the effects of mixing alcohol and two of these drugs a week later.
A criminal complaint led to his arrest. He was accused of giving out oxycodone with no medical reasoning. Reportedly, over two years, Hernandez dispensed 446,000 oxycodone pills, having prescribed more than 6,000 controlled substances. This allegedly included prescriptions for narcotics, a tranquilizer, and relaxant altogether. These “drug cocktails” are particularly looked for by drug addicts and dangerous due to the high threat of overdose.
Further investigation involving Hernandez’s history of prescriptions, tapes of office visits, and the input of a medical expert and law enforcement, it was concluded that seemed to act more like a drug dealer’s than a physician.
Others arrested include:
– Monica Ann Berlin. She worked in Beverly Hills at a doctor’s office and allegedly stole her employer’s signature stamp to write out prescriptions that another person would fill. She apparently forged 44 prescriptions or more. They were written for substances used by her buyer.
– Dr. Michael Anthony Simental. He faces charged of illegally distributing hydrocodone, an opioid. The investigation began after a patient of his died of a drug overdose.
– Dr. Reza Ray Ehsan faces charges of selling controlled drugs to an agent posing as a patient. Allegedly she sold more than 700,000 pills in 2015-16 without reporting the sales.
Many others are also being investigated as a part of this operation. So far, the operation has caused 41 doctors to lose their right to practice, $3 million seized, and nine arrests of practitioners, according to William Bodner, the deputy in charge of Los Angeles DEA office.