Former DC-area doctor sentenced to 15 months in prison for illegally distributing drugs

A doctor from Louisiana, who used to practice in D.C. and Falls Church, Virginia, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for unlawfully distributing oxycodone and hydrocodone to a Fairfax man who then died of an overdose.

Dr. Robert M. Cao, 39, was found guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday of prescribing narcotic pain medications to a man without any doctor-patient relationship, diagnosis or treatment plan, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C.

The Fairfax man subsequently died of an overdose at his home in May 2021. Prescription bottles found at his home listed Cao as the prescribing doctor.

Cao was ordered to complete 36 months of supervised release and 100 hours of community service, in addition to his 15-month prison term.

He’s also prohibited from holding a job that provides access to controlled substances.

Cao took several steps to avoid detection, including creating fraudulent backdated medical records following the man’s death, according to prosecutors.

“It’s outrageous that someone who had a duty to ‘do no harm’ would turn around and prescribe a medically unnecessary, dangerous drug,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves.

“People in our country are dying by the thousands from drug overdoses. [Cao] was better positioned than most people to know the potential consequences of illegal distribution, yet he nevertheless decided to unlawfully prescribe a drug, regardless of the life-threatening consequences.”

Cao pleaded guilty to five felony counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance outside the scope of his professional practice on Nov. 8, 2022.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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