City News Service
Former Psychiatrist Gets Probation in ‘Pill Mill’ Case
By Fred Shuster
May 17, 2011
Dr. Nathan Kuemmerle, 38, of Hollywood, pleaded guilty last January in Los Angeles federal court to a single charge of distribution of a controlled substance, specifically 180 tablets of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
When charged along with his office manager in April 2010, federal prosecutors called Kuemmerle the No. 1 prescriber of the most powerful dosage of Adderall in the state during the previous year.
He was also said to be the second-largest prescriber of the class of federally regulated drugs that includes the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone.
After his arrest, Kuemmerle began a court-ordered process of residential drug rehabilitation. He told U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee today that he had recently graduated from the program.
Deputy Federal Public Defender John L. Littrell said his client’s conduct was negligent and careless, but not as egregious as the prosecution initially alleged.
“The government has portrayed Dr. Kuemmerle as being the leader of the conspiracy … but I think they’ve got it wrong,” the attorney said in arguing for probation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Christensen told Gee that Kuemmerle broke the law because he was “a drug addict. That is what motivated him … to get money” to buy meth.
Littrell added that Kuemmerle, who has not attempted to renew his medical license, has “had to overcome the fact that he’s gay … that he’s got HIV … and that he was addicted to methamphetamine.”
In sentencing him to time served and three years under supervised release, Gee said that Kuemmerle, while highly educated, was involved in an “unhealthy lifestyle” and suffered from arrogance.
“Many of the so-called smartest guys in the room have met their downfall” as a result of hubris, the judge said.
Gee said Kuemmerle poses no risk to the community “as long as he remains drug-free and does not have access to a prescription pad.”
Kuemmerle was arrested in April 2010 at his home by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Redondo Beach police.
Kuemmerle’s office manager, Antonie “Tony” Phillips, 29, of Koreatown, was arrested the same day at the doctor’s clinic on Santa Monica Boulevard, and has since pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He is set to be sentenced by Gee on Monday.
The investigation began in 2009, when Redondo Beach police arrested an individual who offered Adderall for sale on the Craigslist website, prosecutors said.
That person fingered Kuemmerle as the source of the Adderall, claiming the psychiatrist wrote prescriptions on numerous occasions without any medical examination, and that he would write prescriptions for various names during a single visit.
Kuemmerle said he was “shocked and horrified” when he saw undercover tapes of how he behaved at the clinic while he was under the influence.
“I could have put my patients’ lives in jeopardy,” he told the court, adding that he was grateful to the judge for having had the opportunity to get clean.
“You saved my life,” he told the judge. “Thank you.”