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Former Kauai physician sentenced to more than 12 years for dispending controlled substances

HONOLULU — A former Kauai doctor has been sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison on multiple counts of illegally dispensing controlled substances following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations.

Dr. Harold Charles Spear, III, 60, formerly of Hanapepe, Kauai, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court. Previously the defendant pleaded 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.

According to information introduced in court, Spear prescribed methadone to a Hawaii patient on four occasions in 2005 and 2006 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.

Prior to imposing the lengthy sentence, U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra concluded that, based on expert witness testimony, medical reports and records, Spear dispensed dozens of additional prescriptions for controlled substances outside the course of usual medical practice. According to testimony presented during the sentencing proceedings, Spear was often absent for extended periods, but patients continued to be seen and receive prescriptions for controlled substances. In some instances, according to the testimony, patients would go months without ever being seen or examined by Spear, but would nevertheless receive numerous refills for prescriptions.

"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," said U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni.

"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 HSI 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 U.S. Attorney William L. Shipley.