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Press Release

Doctor Sentenced To 57 Months In Prison For Selling Oxycodone Prescriptions To Addicts And Dealers For Cash And Gifts

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

SAN DIEGO – Del Mar physician William Joseph Watson today became the first doctor in the Southern District of California in recent memory to be sentenced to federal prison for prescribing thousands of Oxycodone pills and other highly addictive painkillers without any legitimate medical purpose.

U.S. District Judge James M. Lorenz sentenced Watson to almost five years in custody at a hearing this morning in federal court. Watson pleaded guilty in August - the morning his trial was set to begin - to one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense oxycodone, known by the brand name of OxyContin, without a legitimate medical purpose.

Watson admitted that he sold the prescriptions to addicts, who then used them recreationally or sold them on the street. According to court records, Watson accepted thousands of dollars in cash or luxury goods, such as designer handbags, jewelry and fine wines, in exchange for the Oxycodone prescriptions.

“This is a sentence that sends a very strong message to doctors,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “If you disregard your sacred duty as a physician to do no harm, and you use your prescription pad to fuel the painkiller epidemic gripping this country, you do so at your own peril, with the very real prospect of going to prison.”

“The sentencing of former doctor Joseph Watson today demonstrates the seriousness of the crimes involving prescription drugs,” said San Diego DEA Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman. “Mr. Watson went from being a physician to a drug dealer for the simple reason that any criminal resorts to drug trafficking: Greed. The diversion of prescription drugs from their intended use continues to be a serious issue and DEA is committed to investigating and arresting anyone who diverts prescription drugs for illegal use.”

At today’s sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Sheppard urged the court to impose a significant sentence as a warning to other doctors. Sheppard noted that Watson’s actions contributed to the overdose death of one of his young patients.

“Let it ring from this court room: If you take that oath to do no harm and sell it for a couple hundred dollars, you're going to prison,” Sheppard said.

Watson was ordered to surrender on January 8, 2015, to begin serving his sentence. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release.

DEFENDANTS   Case Number: 13cr2988
William Joseph Watson Age: 59 Del Mar, California

Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1)


U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Updated July 23, 2015