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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

San Bernardino County Physician’s Assistant Sentenced To 14 Years In Federal Prison For Illegally Distributing OxyContin

RIVERSIDE, California – A physician’s assistant who operated a mobile health clinic based in Hesperia was sentenced today to 14 years in federal prison for distributing the powerful and widely abused prescription narcotic OxyContin.

Christopher Henry Lister, 51, of Victorville, was sentenced by United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips. Lister pleaded guilty last November to one count of conspiracy to distribute and attempt to distribute oxycodone, which is the generic drug that is in the brand name OxyContin.

In a plea agreement filed with the court, Lister admitted that he used his powers as a physician’s assistant to supply OxyContin prescriptions to others, including an undercover operative with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Lister sold prescriptions for OxyContin to co-conspirators knowing that they would in turn sell the popular drug to street-level users.

In one exchange captured on videotape during the DEA investigation, Lister told one of his customers to “stockpile” his supply of OxyContin because Lister was considering getting out of the business. Lister advised the co-conspirator that OxyContin prices on the street would likely increase if he stopped writing prescriptions.

Lister “entered into an ongoing scheme to provide oxycodone, a dangerous opiate, to street-level dealers,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo filed with the court. “Using his license as a physician’s assistant, he not only provided these dealers with an avenue to obtain the controlled substance, his use of his prescription-writing powers lent an air of legitimacy to the actions that could have frustrated law enforcement attempts to combat the abuse of a drug closely aligned with heroin abuse.”

Prosecutors noted in court that Lister was previously convicted in a case related to another abuse of public trust. In a case filed in 2003 by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California stemming from an investigation into Medi-Cal fraud, Lister was ultimately convicted of making false statements to a government agent. In court documents, prosecutors said that the case related to Lister “illegally billing Medi-Cal for human growth hormone prescriptions written for non-Medi-Cal recipients [and Lister] himself filled those prescriptions and then sold the drug to users in Los Angeles.”

The OxyContin distribution case against Lister was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Release No. 13-051

Updated June 22, 2015