A Southern California pain-management doctor who was featured in a 2012 Times investigation of patient overdose deaths was convicted Thursday of illegally prescribing narcotics and other commonly abused drugs.
Dr. John Dimowo was convicted of seven counts of illegally writing prescriptions for Vicodin, Xanax and Adderall to undercover agents who pretended to be patients and had no legitimate need for the drugs.
“He didn’t behave like a doctor,” Deputy Dist. Atty. John Niedermann said of Dimowo. “He was acting like a cafeteria worker, basically handing people whatever they requested.”
Dimowo was taken into custody following the jury’s verdict in Los Angeles Superior Court and is being held without bail, Niedermann said. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 29 and faces a maximum of seven years in state prison.
Dimowo’s attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The Times reported in 2012 that five of Dimowo’s patients fatally overdosed on medications he prescribed between 2009 and 2010, according to coroner’s records. The patients ranged in age from 26 to 59. Dimowo was not charged in connection with any patient deaths.
Dimowo, who is board certified in anesthesiology and pain management, told The Times in 2013 that he was a conscientious doctor who carefully monitored his patients for signs of abusing drugs and that he would drop them as patients if they were.
Following The Times report, investigators obtained a list of the doctor’s deceased patients from the Orange County coroner’s office, according to court records. Prosecutors looked into the deaths but did not find sufficient evidence to hold Dimowo criminally liable, Niedermann said.
The decision to charge a doctor with a patient death is complicated by many factors, Niedermann said, including patients obtaining drugs from multiple physicians, mixing prescription drugs with street drugs, or having preexisting medical conditions that contributed to their demise.
The investigation into Dimowo was prompted by complaints from family members of patients, pharmacists and others who told investigators from the Medical Board of California that they believed Dimowo’s prescriptions were feeding patients’ addictions, according to court records.
Following his arrest in 2013, a judge ordered Dimowo to stop prescribing the sorts of drugs at issue in his criminal case while he awaited trial. The doctor was re-arrested earlier this year while his court case was pending after investigators alleged he had resumed prescribing such drugs in violation of the court's order.
Niedermann said such blatant disregard for the judge's order made it hard to later argue that the illegal prescribing he was charged with was the result of a mistake or oversight.
"It's baffling why someone would take that risk when a judge has ordered them face to face to stop," the prosecutor said. "It doesn't make logical sense."