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Monday, December 17 , 2018, 12:52 am | Fair 50º


Federal Trial Starts for Santa Barbara ‘Candyman’ Doctor Accused of Overprescribing

A former doctor arrested more than three-and-a-half years ago for allegedly overprescribing pain medications from his Santa Barbara medical practice is facing a jury trial this week in a federal courtroom in Santa Ana.

Julio Diaz, who operated a medical practice on Milpas Street, pleaded guilty in January 2014 to federal charges of overprescribing painkillers that led to 11 patient deaths.  

In December 2014, however, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney allowed Diaz to withdraw his guilty plea, ruling that Diaz had not been properly advised on the case by his attorney at the time.

A federal affidavit accused Diaz of prescribing “profound” doses of drugs, including strong painkillers such as OxyContin, Fentanyl and Dilaudid, and he was arrested con Jan. 4, 2012.

Diaz is charged with 88 criminal counts and there is no plea deal up for discussion, prosecutor Ann Wolf said last year. Those counts add up to nearly 1,500 years in potential prison time and millions of dollars in fines.

Trial started Tuesday and the prosecution and defense gave opening statements in which they presented Diaz in contrasting profiles — as someone who unscrupulously sold addictive medications to people who did not need them, and as a doctor who was deceived by patients looking for pills, the Orange County Register reported this week.

The Register wrote that Diaz’s patients travel filled prescriptions not only at South Coast pharmacies near the Santa Barbara medical practice, but across the state in cities including Fullerton, Irvine, Huntington Beach and San Clemente.

Diaz has been represented by a handful of attorneys since the beginning of the case and is now represented by attorney Kate Corrigan.

Corrigan stated in court that Diaz began his practice by treating elderly patients, but treating patients for pain management brought in patients who were less forthcoming.

Former doctor Julio Diaz is escorted out of his Santa Barbara office at 510 N. Milpas St. by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration during his Jan. 4, 2012 arrest. Click to view larger
Former doctor Julio Diaz is escorted out of his Santa Barbara office at 510 N. Milpas St. by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration during his Jan. 4, 2012 arrest.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

She encouraged jurors to keep an open mind, the Register reported.

Diaz — whom some patients referred to as the "Candyman" because of his liberal prescribing habits — had his medical license revoked by the California Medical Board in 2012.

He had been released on $30,000 bail and was serving house detention at his Cannon Green Drive home in Goleta.

Noozhawk broke the story of Diaz's arrest in 2012, and prior to the doctor's bust by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, multiple sources — including pharmacists, emergency room doctors, families and law enforcement — said Diaz had consistently overprescribed pain medication.

Emergency room doctors at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital told Noozhawk that the ER was flooded with patients going through withdrawal after Diaz's arrest cut off their supply of drugs in 2012.

Two families who lost loved ones to prescription drug overdose have settled civil lawsuits with local pharmacies and their pharmacists who filled Diaz's prescriptions.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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