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Former Wilmington doctor avoids prison on drug charges

A former Wilmington doctor has escaped prison time for drug charges. He faced four counts of attempting to traffic opiates and three counts of prescribing controlled substances without a legitimate medical reason. The man entered a guilty plea for the drug charges in the New Hanover County Superior Court and was sentenced to three years' probation.

The sentencing in this case signals the end of a long investigation that included undercover law enforcement visits to the man's former clinic and surveillance of the man's dealings. The now defunct Wilmington Pain Clinic was apparently set up as a front to furnish prescriptions to addicts for cash.

North Carolina's sentencing requirements rendered the man ineligible for active prison time due to his lack of criminal history. If the man violates his probation, he stands to be sentenced to up to nine years in prison. The man's medical license has been suspended by the North Carolina Medical board as a way to protect patients' safety.

An investigation into the doctor's prescribing practices did not occur until 2010, although complaints were received by the medical board as early as the year prior. Pharmacists were growing concerned that the former doctor was abusing his authority and writing prescriptions to people who appeared to be addicts. A criminal investigation occurred when a former receptionist told authorities that the doctor had asked her to alter patient charts, and patients were able to receive any prescription they asked for as long as they paid $100 in cash.

As this case shows, there are certain situations in which entering a plea deal may be the best way to get the most favorable outcome for a defendant. The doctor was fortunate to have avoided additional charges and a harsher sentence for these North Carolina drug charges. The plea deal avoided a trial and ended the case with what appears to be a relatively positive outcome for the man. It's important for anyone accused of any crime to fully understand their rights and options.

Source: Star News Online, "Former doctor pleads guilty to drug charges," Brian Freskos, March 14, 2012

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