Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations
March 2, 2012: Former Kauai Physician Sentenced to Over 12 Years in Prison
HONOLULU – Dr. Harold Charles Spear, III, 60, formerly of Hanapepe, Kauai, was sentenced yesterday in United States District Court to 12 years and 7 months in prison on multiple charges of dispensing controlled substances in violation of federal law. Dr. Spear pled guilty to four counts of dispensing controlled substances "outside the usual course of professional practice" and "not for a legitimate medical purpose" in a Hawaii indictment and one additional similar charge of dispensing controlled substances filed in the Middle District of Alabama.
Florence T. Nakakuni, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, said that according to information produced in court, Spear prescribed a Schedule II controlled substance, methadone, to a Hawaii patient on four occasions in 2005 and 2006, and that in each instance the prescription was in violation of a federal law prohibiting the dispensing of controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose. The Alabama charge was premised on a similarly illegal prescription for hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance.
Prior to imposing the sentence, United States District Judge David A. Ezra concluded that based on expert witness testimony and medical reports and records, dozens of additional prescriptions for controlled substances by Spear were also outside the course of usual medical practice, and not for a legitimate medical purpose. Among the evidence mentioned by Judge Ezra in justifying the sentence imposed was the fact that Spear had for an extended period of time engaged in a practice whereby he allowed untrained and uncertified office staff personnel to complete prescriptions for controlled substances/pain medications.
According to testimony presented during the sentencing proceedings Spear was often absent for extended periods of time, but patients continued to be seen and receive prescriptions for controlled substances. In some instances, according to the testimony of the expert witnesses, patients would go months without ever being seen or examined by Spear but would nevertheless receive numerous refills for prescriptions.
United States Attorney Florence Nakakuni said, "A doctor who facilitates the large-scale distribution of controlled substances, especially highly addictive pain medications, in a manner not warranted by legitimate medical needs, does a disservice to both those patients and the surrounding community that suffers the collateral consequences of drug addiction and drug seeking behavior."
The prosecution resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations. “Medical professionals should know better than anyone the dangers of indiscriminately dispensing controlled substances without appropriate care and supervision,” said Wayne Wills, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in Honolulu. “The resulting sentence should serve as a sobering reminder about the consequences facing those with such a willful disregard for the law.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William L. Shipley.