El Cajon physician sentenced in painkiller sex scandal
An El Cajon physician who prescribed painkillers in exchange for sex with two female patients has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
Dr. Naga Raja Thota, 62, was remanded immediately into jail March 6 after U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns sentenced him. Thota had been free on a $100,000 property bond.
Thota has surrendered his medical license, according to court records. Assistant U.S. Attorney Orlando Gutierrez recommended the 2 ½-year prison term while the probation department recommended two years.
Thota’s lawyer, Robert Schlein, recommended probation and said all sexual contacts were consensual. He said the physician terminated one of the patients for abusing the painkillers he prescribed.
Thota pleaded guilty Nov. 29, 2016 to seven counts of distributing and dispensing painkillers without a legitimate medical purpose. He prescribed some drugs in the names of the brother and father of one patient and he was not their doctor.
The painkillers prescribed at a Navajo Road pain management clinic in 2013 and 2014 were hydrocodone and oxycodone. One patient described as a victim was 20 years old when she met Thota.
“Pain pill addiction has become a serious public health problem that is causing an increasing number of fatal overdoses nationwide,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson.
“We will continue to vigorously enforce the law against doctors who abuse the prescribing privilege and exploit desperate addicts for their own purposes,” said Robinson.
William Sherman, the Drug Enforcement Administration special agent, said the DEA “will continue to investigate anyone who does not take that public trust to heart.”
Two men plead guilty in robbery spree
Two men have pleaded not guilty to a federal grand jury indictment in the robbery of a Spring Valley cell phone store and nine other hold-ups of other stores.
Robberies are normally charged in state court, but the federal charges allege they interfered with interstate commerce by threats and violence. They are also charged with conspiracy to affect interstate commerce by robbery.
Carlos Adolfo Soto, 39, and Justin Wayne Caldwell, 30, were arrested Feb. 21 after Soto allegedly robbed the Metro PCS store at 2:05 p.m. in Pacific Beach. San Diego Police recovered $155 in cash, nine cellular telephones, and a pellet gun that resembled a pistol.
The conspiracy charge carries a 20-year sentence and so does each federal robbery charge. Soto and Caldwell were arraigned March 7 in U.S. District Court and were ordered to appear March 27 for motions.
The hold-up of the Metro PCS store at 8662 Jamacha Road in Spring Valley occurred Jan. 25 and was the first in this series. The robber threatened customers and employees with a machete at the Spring Valley store, but after that a pellet gun was used.
The eight other robberies were all at Metro PCS stores on El Cajon Boulevard, Clairemont, Normal Heights, Serra Mesa, San Marcos, Nestor and Poway.
Soto agreed to remain in the Metropolitan Correctional Center without bail for now, but Caldwell’s attorney asked for bail and a magistrate set it at $35,000. Caldwell also remains in jail.
The U.S. Attorney’s office objected to the $35,000 bail figure and asked Magistrate Judge Karen Crawford to reconsider the ruling. They asked her to either raise the bail or deny it altogether at a hearing set for March 23. Caldwell is a flight risk, court papers say.
There were 16 people who were employees and customers whose lives were threatened in the 10 hold-ups, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. The robber pointed at what looked like a pistol at the head and body of some employees and customers, but only a pellet gun was found with Soto by police.