An oncologist has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for running a pill mill, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah.
Arrested in DEA Dallas’ “Operation Wasted Daze,” Dr. Caesar Mark Capistrano, 61, was convicted at trial in January three counts of conspiracy to dispense a controlled substance and two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. He was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor.
“Doctors who run pill mills knowingly profit off of vulnerable people’s addictions,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah. “The Justice Department is determined to prosecute doctors who funnel powerful prescription drugs onto our streets. We will do everything within our power to curb the opioid epidemic.”
“Using one’s trusted status as a medical professional for unlawful acts cannot go unpunished,” stated Eduardo A. Chávez, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Dallas Field Division. “The Dallas DEA will always seek justice against those who take advantage of individuals, especially ones who suffer from addiction.”
According to evidence presented at three different trials conducted in early 2021, Dr. Capistrano and his associate, 36-year-old Dr. Tameka Lachelle Noel, wrote prescriptions for hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, carisoprodol, zolpidem, phentermine, and promethazine with codeine, knowing the drugs would be diverted to the streets for illicit use.
Dr. Capistrano and Dr. Noel, assisted by 48-year-old clinic manager Shirley Ann Williams, used a network of recruiters to enlist individuals from the community and local homeless shelters to pose as “patients.” Recruiters paid each “patient” a small fee, usually $50 to $200 cash, to obtain controlled substance prescriptions from Dr. Capistrano and Dr. Noel.
The recruiters – who paid the clinic based in part on the amount of drugs prescribed – then filled the prescriptions at various complicit pill mill pharmacies and diverted the drugs for resale on the streets. The pharmacists charged the recruiters between $200 and $800 per prescription, filling hundreds and hundreds of prescriptions for a fee, according to evidence presented at trial.
At the clinic, many of the “patients” were seen not by the doctors, but by Ms. Williams, who possessed neither a medical license nor a DEA registration. After a perfunctory conversation with the “patient,” Ms. Williams allegedly coordinated with Dr. Capistrano and Dr. Noel to prescribe dangerous drugs without legitimate medical purpose. In order to make the prescriptions appear legitimate, the doctors occasionally included prescriptions for non-controlled substances, such as antibiotics and mineral ice.
Over a nine-year span, Dr. Capistrano issued prescriptions for more than 524,000 doses of hydrocodone, 430,000 doses of carisoprodol, 77,000 doses of alprazolam, and 2.07 million doses of promethazine with codeine. Over seven years, Dr. Noel issued prescriptions for more than 200,000 doses of hydrocodone, 55,000 doses of carisoprodol, 14,000 doses of alprazolam, and 450,000 doses of promethazine with codeine.
Often, the doctors prescribed multiple medications simultaneously and at the highest dosages available.
Medical professionals convicted in the scheme include:
Clinic staff convicted in the scheme include:
Pharmacists convicted in the scheme include:
Recruiters convicted in the scheme include:
The DEA Dallas Field Division’s Fort Worth Office conducted the investigation, with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations, IRS – Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, and the Fort Worth Police Department. The DEA’s Fort Worth Tactical Diversion Squad is comprised of DEA agents and task force officers from the Arlington Police Department, the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, the North Richland Hills Police Department, the Benbrook Police Department, the Granbury Police Department, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, and the Parker County Sheriff’s Office. This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura Montes and Shawn Smith are prosecuting the case.