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Press Release

Federal Court Permanently Bars Utah Physician from Issuing Opioid and Controlled Substance Prescriptions

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A federal judge entered a consent order that permanently bars a Utah physician from issuing prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances.

The consent order resolves allegations made by the United States against Dr. Sean Ponce, a medical doctor licensed in Utah. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, the government alleged that Dr. Ponce unlawfully issued controlled substance prescriptions in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The complaint alleged that Dr. Ponce catered to customer requests for opioids and other controlled substances, at times using text messages to arrange the exchange of prescriptions for cash. The complaint further alleged that Dr. Ponce used virtual office space in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, to meet with cash-paying customers to maintain the guise of a medical practice despite the routine lack of legitimate examinations, medical findings supporting the prescriptions or bona-fide doctor-patient relationships.

“Doctors who facilitate the illegal diversion of opioids and other controlled substances harm the public and violate the law,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue working with its partners to stop medical professionals who seek to profit from the opioid addiction epidemic.”

“In the District of Utah, we will enforce the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act,” said U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins for the District of Utah. “This includes violations of the Act committed by doctors and healthcare professionals who unlawfully distribute controlled substances under the guise of legitimate medical practice.”

“We entrust healthcare professionals to act in the community’s best interest,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Besser of the DEA Rocky Mountain Division. “With that trust, the DEA expects practitioners to prescribe controlled substances in accordance with the laws and regulations set forth by legislation. When public trust is broken and healthcare providers seek to benefit from those that are at risk, they will most certainly be held accountable. I commend our Salt Lake City agents and our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch for judiciously building this case and seeing it through.”

The consent order, entered by U.S. District Judge David Barlow, requires Dr. Ponce to pay a $65,000 civil penalty. The order also permanently prohibits Dr. Ponce from administering, dispensing or distributing controlled substances and from managing or supervising other medical providers who work with or prescribe opioids or controlled substances. The order prohibits Dr. Ponce from owning a business or medical practice where opioids or controlled substances are handled.

The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Ferre for the District of Utah and Trial Attorneys Yolanda D. McCray Jones and Scott B. Dahlquist of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch. The DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad in the Salt Lake City District Office provided substantial investigative support.

The claims resolved by the resolution are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Updated November 1, 2022

Consumer Protection
Press Release Number: 22-1177