West Hollywood Doctor Pleads Guilty to Distributing Painkillers after being Ordered to Stop Writing Prescriptions by DEA
LOS ANGELES – A West Hollywood doctor pleaded guilty this afternoon to a federal drug trafficking charge for writing hundreds of prescriptions for various controlled substances after a federal order revoked his authority to prescribe drugs.
James William Eisenberg, 72, who resides in the Venice district of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to one count distribution of hydrocodone, a drug best known by the brand names Vicodin and Norco.
Eisenberg wrote the prescriptions while he worked out of several medical offices in West Hollywood, including a Santa Monica Boulevard storefront he called Pacific Support Services. Eisenberg also issued “medical marijuana” recommendations from these West Hollywood locations. He has been prohibited from issuing such recommendations and from practicing medicine at medical marijuana clinics as a condition of his release on bail.
In order to legally prescribe controlled substances such as hydrocodone, physicians must be registered with the United States Attorney General and have a valid DEA registration number. On December 14, 2011, a DEA administrative judge determined that Eisenberg acted as a “drug dealer” and suspended his registration number. The DEA issued an order permanently revoking Eisenberg’s registration on July 24, 2012.
The orders issued by the administrative judge were based on findings that Eisenberg, who at the time was working out of a “medical marijuana” club in Arizona, “lacked a legitimate medical purpose and acted outside of the usual course of professional practice” when he wrote prescriptions for oxycodone (the generic form of a drug often best known as the brand-name OxyContin) and Xanax in exchange for $150 cash payments. The DEA judge also found that Eisenberg wrote “medical marijuana” recommendations to undercover officers posing as patients, and that Eisenberg prescribed OxyContin to one of the undercover agents “before [Eisenberg] had even performed a physical examination.”
DEA investigators later learned that Eisenberg continued to prescribe controlled substances, including hydrocodone, in violation of the DEA’s orders. A review of a California Department of Justice database that can be used to track prescriptions showed that, following the suspension of Eisenberg’s registration number, patients filled more than 1,700 of his prescriptions for controlled substances, including more than 1,200 prescriptions for hydrocodone. As charged in the indictment, Eisenberg wrote one of those prescriptions on December 27, 2011, less than two weeks after his registration number was suspended.
DEA investigators executed a federal search warrant on one of Eisenberg’s West Hollywood offices on February 19, 2013. The affidavit in support of the search warrant outlines evidence, including surveillance and undercover operations, that Eisenberg continued to write prescriptions for controlled substances in violation of the DEA’s revocation order. The evidence included an operation in which an undercover agent, posing as a patient, obtained a prescription from Eisenberg for hydrocodone and alprazolam (the generic form of a drug best known as Xanax).
As a result of today’s guilty plea, Eisenberg faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald on December 9, 2013.
The investigation into Eisenberg was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Release No. 13-104
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