Physician's assistant admits to illegally selling painkillers
A physician’s assistant pleaded guilty Friday to a federal narcotics charge for distributing powerful and addictive painkillers to patients he did not examine.
During a hearing in federal court in Riverside, Christopher Henry Lister, 50, of Apple Valley, admitted to a felony count of conspiring to distribute controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California.
At the time of his arrest in November 2010, Lister managed a mobile medical service in Hesperia called Lister’s Mobile Health Services, officials said.
A federal indictment alleged that Lister obtained prescription pads with the name of a licensed physician without the doctor’s knowledge or approval. He then sold prescriptions for cash without conducting any medical examination and, in some cases, while knowing that the patients were using false names, prosecutors said.
In a plea agreement, Lister admitted that “on numerous occasions” in 2009, he provided prescriptions for oxycodone in exchange for cash, authorities said. His clients or confederates resold some of the drugs to other users.
Investigators recorded audio of one sale. In it, Lister is heard to say that he would be stopping his practice soon and that there would be a shortage of prescriptions, leading to a price increase. Better stock up now, he allegedly advised. He also offered to provide a “six-month supply” for multiple orders if the client provided a list of names.
An undercover agent and a confidential informant each obtained drugs through Lister’s efforts, according to the indictment.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from the California Medical Board, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
Lister’s sentencing hearing is set for February. He faces up 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
-- Howard Blume