A federal jury has convicted San Jose physician Donald Siao of 12 counts of distributing oxycodone and hydrocodone,U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey announced today.
The verdict followed a one-week trial before U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose.The Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the California Department of Justice Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse assisted in the investigation.
Siao, 58, is a licensed physician who practices family medicine in San Jose.
At the trial, evidence demonstrated that after identifying Siao in a separate prescription fraud investigation, investigators reviewed a California state database and discovered Siao had written 8,201 prescriptions for controlled substance medications in just the one-year period from May 2016 to May 2017
An investigation followed and resulted in Siao prescribing oxycodone and hydrocodone in increasing quantities over 17 visits by four separate undercover law enforcement agents posing as patients, according to prosecutors.
The undercover agents received prescriptions from Siao despite complaining of only vague pain or discomfort, requesting specific opioids by name, and admitting to sharing the pills with friends and coworkers.
The evidence at trial further established that Siao prescribed dangerous opioids to a mother and son, despite obvious red flags.
Siao continued to prescribe opioids to the mother after she repeatedly claimed that her pills had been lost or stolen, despite Siao receiving an alert from her insurer regarding her opioid prescriptions and despite Siao being advised that she had been jailed for selling pills, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Siao also prescribed opioids to the son even after he overdosed twice. Siao continued to prescribe opioids to the man after he repeatedly claimed the opioids were lost or stolen and even after he had been flagged by his prior medical provider for drug-seeking behavior, after his mother reported he had stolen her medications, and after his mother fatally overdosed on opioids.
These facts were all documented in Siao’s medical file for A.J.
Trial evidence also demonstrated that Siao refused to heed warnings that his prescriptions were dangerous, prosecutors said.
Evidence showed Siao was aware that DEA closely scrutinized opioid prescriptions, even pointing out to one of the undercover officers posing as a patient that a nationwide epidemic was underway in which large numbers of people were addicted to and dying from opioids.
“Siao nevertheless continued to prescribe opioids to the agents upon their request and with little to no physical examination, sometimes after visits lasting only a few minutes,” said today’s press release.
Law enforcement agents interviewed Siao in November 2018 about his prescribing practices, and Siao admitted he was aware of the California Medical Board’s Guidelines for Prescribing Controlled Substances for Pain. During the trial, Siao also admitted that he had been taught about the dangers of addiction and how to identify drug-seeking patients.
The jury convicted Siao of 12 counts of distributing opioids outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.
Siao’s sentencing was set for November. Each of the twelve counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.