Dearborn Doctor Pleads Guilty to Diverting Prescription Pills

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

DETROIT – Dearborn physician Tete Oniango, 47, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and agreed to forfeit approximately $37,000 in cash seized from his office, announced United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison.

Ison was joined in the announcement by James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Division and Special Agent in Charge Mario Pinto of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office.

According to court records, Dr. Oniango admitted to prescribing 12,500 dosage units of hydrocodone, a powerful, Schedule II controlled substance without regard to medical necessity.  Oniango issued these prescription drugs outside the course of professional medical practice and without any legitimate medical need for the drugs.  

U.S. Attorney Ison said, “Hydrocodone is extremely addictive and can lead to addiction and eventual heroin use.  Michigan has seen a devastating number of opioid drug overdoses in the last five years. My office remains committed to pursuing medical providers who abuse their roles as caregivers and inflict harm upon our community.”

Special Agent in Charge Tarasca stated, “Physicians who provide prescription drugs without a legitimate medical purpose are contributing to the drug epidemic in our community. The message should be clear, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to focus our efforts on any doctor or healthcare professional who prioritizes profit over patient health and safety.”

“Physicians, and other medical practitioners, who place profits ahead of their patients by prescribing powerful controlled substances outside of medical necessity, unnecessarily risk the safety of those who they are charged to care for,” said Mario M. Pinto, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who needlessly prescribe controlled substances at the expense of the well-being of others.”

Sentencing is set for August 22, 2022.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Ross as part of the district’s efforts to address the nation’s opioid crisis.  The Eastern District of Michigan is one of twelve districts included in the Attorney General’s Opioid Fraud Abuse and Detection initiative.