An oxycodone and hydrocodone overdose death in Fairfax County led to the imprisonment of a doctor from Louisiana who had previously worked in Washington, DC, and Falls Church, Virginia.
Federal authorities reported that Dr. Robert Cao, 39, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in US District Court for the District of Columbia on five felony charges of unlawful distribution of a controlled drug outside the scope of his professional activity.
Cao, who was licensed to practice medicine in the District of Columbia and Virginia, allegedly prescribed the controlled medications to a man named “V.C.” at least five times in 2021.
There was no doctor-patient connection, but Cao still gave the victim his medicines. He also never checked in on “V.C.,” who apparently had no diagnosis, treatment plan, or medical prescriptions that would necessitate such medication.
In May of 2021, EMS workers were called to a home in Fairfax after “V.C.’s” girlfriend discovered him unresponsive and chilly. Circumstances surrounding his death at the time were questionable.
The responders discovered several prescription bottles on the nightstand near the victim’s location. One of the bottles had Percocet pills that had been filled the previous week with Cao as the prescribing doctor.
According to the autopsy results, “V.C.” died of an acute combination of oxycodone and ethanol toxicity.
Prosecutors claim they found text messages between Cao and the overdose victim in which the two discussed “V.C.” allegedly spitting out some of the tablets recommended to him by the doctor.
The night before the overdose, they also had a conversation.
Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs of the FBI’s Criminal and Cyber Division in the Washington, D.C. office said, “Medical practitioners take an oath to do no damage to their patients and the public,” but in this case, Robert Cao wrote needless prescriptions for extremely addictive opioids.
As the findings of this inquiry show, even a small number of illegal prescriptions can have devastating consequences when used inappropriately.
Prosecutors claim that after the fatal overdose, Cao took intricate measures to distance himself from “V.C.”
According to their investigation, he told the victim to avoid leaving a paper trail and to fill the prescriptions at times when they were less likely to be questioned by pharmacies.
Cao also hid the prescription pad he used to write the man’s prescriptions in a diary-shaped container at his house, which he had stolen from a cosmetic business in Washington, DC where he had previously worked.
Cao, upon learning of the tragic end, fabricated backdated medical paperwork to make it look as though he had prescribed the medicines legally.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves called it “outrageous” that a doctor who owed a patient the oath “do no harm” would instead recommend a medicine with serious risks. Drug overdoses are a leading cause of death in the United States.
Although “(Cao) was in a better position than most people to comprehend the probable repercussions of illicit distribution,” he yet chose to illegally prescribe a medicine despite the potentially fatal outcomes.
In the month of November 2022, Cao admitted guilt by entering a plea of guilty. Cao received a prison sentence, followed by 36 months of supervised release, 100 hours of community service, and a ban from holding any jobs that would allow him access to drugs.