Santa Barbara doctor convicted of drug trafficking
August 29, 2015
A Santa Barbara-area physician who wrote numerous prescriptions for powerful painkillers, such as OxyContin, for “patients” – many of whom were drug addicts, and some of whom died from drug overdoses – was convicted Friday of 79 drug trafficking charges, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Julio Gabriel Diaz, 67, a Goleta resident who operated the Family Medical Clinic in Santa Barbara, was found guilty following trial in United States District Court. Diaz, who was known to some “patients” as the “Candyman,” was a prolific writer of prescriptions for highly addictive and dangerous drugs.
In 2011, for example, Diaz wrote prescriptions for more than 1.7 million doses of painkillers. His “patients” typically paid cash, waited hours for a 10-minute visit with Diaz, and received prescriptions for powerful drugs that included opioids, anti-anxiety medications and muscle relaxants. Several doctors and pharmacists who testified during the trial said that they had never seen any doctor prescribe the combination and quantity of drugs prescribed by Diaz.
Twenty-six of the 79 charges against Diaz relate to oxycodone (a drug often sold under the brand name OxyContin), 10 of the charges relate to methadone, seven of the counts relate to hydromorphone (a drug commonly sold under the brand name Dilaudid), 10 of the charges relate to fentanyl, 11 of the charges relate to hydrocodone (a drug often sold under the brand names Vicodin and Norco), 10 of the charges relate to alprazolam (a drug often sold under brand name Xanax), and five of the charges related to the distribution of various controlled substances to a minor.
The jury found that Diaz distributed the drugs outside of the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.
As a result of today’s verdicts, Diaz will face a maximum possible sentence of 1,360 years in federal prison, although the actual sentence will likely be less under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Diaz is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney on Dec. 14.
According to the evidence presented at trial, 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. 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.
Diaz was arrested in this case in Jan. 2012. After his arrest, the state of California revoked his license.
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.