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Press Release

Dearborn Doctor Who Attempted to Flee to Mexico Sentenced for Illegally Selling Powerful Opioid Pills

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

DETROIT - A Dearborn doctor was sentenced to four years in federal prison based on his conviction for conspiring to distribute and distributing over 12,000 powerful opioid pills, United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced today.

Ison was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge James Tarasca of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office 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.

United States District Court Judge Nancy G. Edmunds imposed the sentence on Dr. Tete Oniango, 48, of Oakland, Michigan.  According to court records, Dr. Oniango was sentenced based on his plea of guilty to conspiring with patient recruiters and others to distribute prescription opioid pills in violation of his medical and DEA licenses.  Dr. Oniango unlawfully prescribed 12,500 hydrocodone pills, a powerful, Schedule II controlled substance. Hydrocodone is commonly  known by the brand names of Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, and Norco. Oniango issued these prescription drugs without regard to medical necessity and outside the course of professional medical practice.  The doctor would issue opioid prescriptions to patients who appeared at his Dearborn medical clinic without conducting any medical examinations or appropriate testing.  As part of his sentence, Dr. Oniango was also ordered to forfeit approximately $38,000 in cash that was seized from his medical office.

In 2021, while on bond and pretrial release following his indictment in 2020, Dr. Oniango attempted to flee the United States by taking a bus to Mexico.  However, Mexican border agents apprehended Oniango and returned him to United States authorities.

U.S. Attorney Ison stated, “Michigan has been devastated by opioid drug overdoses in the last decade. Dr. Oniango betrayed his oath as a physician and injected poison into our communities for profit.  My office will zealously pursue medical providers who abuse their licenses and inflict harm upon our community.”

 “As a physician, Dr. Oniango was trusted to prescribe potent narcotics in keeping with laws and regulations designed to prevent the diversion of prescription drugs that fuel the ongoing opioid epidemic. Not only did he break that trust, but he also attempted to flee the consequences of his criminal behavior,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate this type of criminal behavior and to ensuring those who operate outside the law face the consequence for that choice.”

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States 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.  The case was investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

Updated September 13, 2022

Prescription Drugs