WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — A judge sentenced a former doctor licensed in D.C. and Virginia to 15 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to prescribing narcotics which led to an overdose death in Virginia.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said in a news release that Dr. Robert M. Cao, 39, who used to live in Falls Church, Va., pleaded guilty on November 8, 2022. He was sentenced on Tuesday.
Court documents said that Cao had “knowingly and intentionally” wrote prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone for a man, referred to as “V.C.” in the documents, with whom he had no doctor-patient relationship. Officials said that both of these substances are controlled and have a “high potential for abuse.” Cao wrote prescriptions for “V.C.” at least five times in 2021 without an examination, diagnosis or treatment plan. Documents also said that Cao knew “V.C.” had “no medical condition that would necessitate such prescriptions.”
Documents said that first responders were called to a home in Fairfax, Va. on May 31, 2021. The victim’s girlfriend called 911 after she found him cold and unconscious. He died there, and an autopsy report determined that he had been killed by oxycodone and ethanol poisoning.
Officials found several prescription bottles on the nightstand next to where “V.C.” was found. One bottle had Percocet pills in it and had been filled on May 23, 2021 with Cao’s name listed as the prescribing doctor.
Court documents also said that Cao and “V.C.” had exchanged text messages leading up to “V.C.”‘s death. They had discussed “V.C.” giving Cao a kickback of some prescribed pills in exchange for a prescription. The two had also met the night before “V.C.” died so Cao could get some of the pills from him.
Documents continued to say that Cao took steps to hide these prescriptions from law enforcement, including telling “V.C.” not to leave a paper trail and to fill prescriptions at certain times to avoid questions from pharmacies. Court documents also said that Cao hid the pad that he used to write the prescriptions from his D.C. office, hiding it in a container that was disguised to look like a diary.
“It’s outrageous that someone who had a duty to ‘do no harm’ would turn around and prescribe a medically unnecessary, dangerous drug. People in our country are dying by the thousands from drug overdoses. The defendant was better positioned than most people to know the potential consequences of illegal distribution, yet he nevertheless decided to unlawfully prescribe a drug, regardless of the life-threatening consequences,” U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves said in the release.
After his sentence, Cao will face 36 months of supervised release and have to serve 100 hours of community service. The court ordered that he no longer can have a job that gives him access to controlled substances.