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Orange County Register

OC psychiatrist sentenced to prison for prescription drug sales scheme

By Sean Emery

June 17, 2019

Psychiatrist Robert Perez

1420 E EDINGER AVE STE 123, Santa Ana, CA 92705

SANTA ANA — A Santa Ana-based psychiatrist who illegally gave out prescriptions for opioids and other drugs was sentenced Monday to 57 months in federal prison.

Dr. Robert Tinoco Perez, 56, of Westminster, as part of a plea agreement admitted earlier this year to one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

Perez during his sentencing hearing Monday at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana apologized to U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford for his actions. He blamed them on a variety of personal factors including the sudden death of his mother, the dissolution of a longtime relationship and a new marriage and a failed business partnership with a friend that left him nearly bankrupt, all of which he said led to a methamphetamine addiction.

“They impaired me in my thinking and led to actions I never would have done otherwise,” Perez said.

Guilford noted that Perez seemed to be focusing mainly on himself, rather than the wider impact of his actions.

“Turn on the news at any time, see the number of lives destroyed by the opioid crisis, and that has to come from somewhere” Guilford told Perez. “I wonder if you have thought about how many people have been impacted by you selling this poison for money.”

In 2017 and 2018, Perez and co-defendant William Jason Plumley operated the prescription drug distribution scheme, which involved prescriptions without medical necessity for oxycodone, hydrocodone and amphetamine salts, according to court filings.

Plumley, a Huntington Beach resident, already admitted to his role in the scheme, and was sentenced last year to 70 months behind bars. He acknowledged selling the prescriptions obtained from Perez for cash, sharing the proceeds with Perez, and helping to create fake medical records to fool pharmacies, according to court records.

In his own plea agreement, Perez admitted to knowingly issuing prescriptions for drugs he knew had no legitimate medical purpose to fictitious patients he had never met. 

Perez’s attorney, Kate Corrigan, noted that her client is a well-educated man who came from a large family of hard working people and who chose to focus his practice in an underserved community. His personal problems, combined with his drug addiction, created a perfect storm, the defense attorney said.

“He just got overwhelmed and he found himself in a dark pit,” Corrigan said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rosalind Wang argued that Perez abused his trust and authority as a physician, ultimately acting little differently than a street-level drug dealer.

“He was essentially selling drugs in exchange for cash, that is what it comes down to,” Wang told the judge.