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Former Santa Barbara Doctor Julio Diaz Sentenced to 27 Years in Prison for Overprescribing Drugs

Former doctor Julio Diaz, who walked out of an Eastside Santa Barbara office before being found guilty for overprescribing drugs to patients, was sentenced Monday to 27 years in prison, said Prosecutor Ann Wolf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Diaz was arrested by federal agents on Jan. 4, 2012 after an affidavit accused Diaz of prescribing “profound” doses of drugs, including strong painkillers such as OxyContin, fentanyl and Dilaudid to patients at his Milpas Street practice.

He was found guilty on all 79 charges against him in August of this year after a two-and-a-half-week trial took place in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.

Diaz initially pleaded guilty in January 2014 to federal charges of overprescribing painkillers that led to 11 patient deaths, but U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney allowed him to later withdraw the guilty plea, ruling that Diaz had not been properly advised by his attorney at the time.

Diaz’s attorney has stated she plans to appeal the guilty verdict.

The prosecution brought forward a range of witnesses to testify during trial, including doctors from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, medical experts, several pharmacists, former patients and family members of those patients.   

Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office put forward a case that had financial motive as a dominant theme for why Diaz began to prescribe such large amounts of powerful drugs to people trapped in addiction, and also painted him as someone who felt untouchable by the law.

The investigation and criminal trial looked at 50,000 prescriptions written by Diaz during the scope of his practice, but primarily focused on a small snapshot of those, which were given out when Diaz expanded to include “pain management” as part of his practice from 2007 to 2011.

“Any medical provider that turns people into addicts and takes advantage of that will be held accountable,” Wolf told Noozhawk earlier this year after Diaz’s conviction.

“The fact that someone is wearing a white coat doesn’t give them carte blanche to deal drugs. (Diaz) was a drug dealer.”

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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