A physician from Dublin was found guilty last Friday of 14 counts of illegally prescribing opioids and other commonly abused medications to patients in what federal authorities allege became a pill mill "fueled by greed" that turned him "from doctor to drug dealer."
Dr. Edmund Kemprud, who was charged nearly two years ago, was accused of running his negligent operation in multiple locations in the East Bay and Central Valley, including one in Dublin and another in the back room of a nail salon and medi-spa in Tracy. Evidence at his trial showed he ignored signs that patients were addicts or even diverting the drugs and kept writing the scripts nonetheless, prosecutors said.
"This defendant displayed a blatant disregard for patient safety and the law," Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in a statement after the verdict last Friday . "Although he knew his treatment of patients was unlawful, he continued to pump dangerous drugs into the community."
"It took the effort of agents, investigators, undercover officers, medical professionals who practiced with the defendant and pharmacists to bring an end to Kemprud's illicit prescription writing," Talbert added. "The U.S. Attorney's Office will continue our vigorous pursuit of those who fuel the opioid epidemic for their own personal benefit."
Kemprud, 78, had pleaded not guilty to all of the federal charges. Defense attorney Douglas J. Beevers had not responded to a request for comment sent to the Federal Defender's Office for the Eastern District of California as of Monday afternoon.
Kemprud faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb on Feb. 14.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, whose department assisted in the investigation, said the Dublin case demonstrated just one example in the long battle against wrongdoing in the opioid epidemic.
"We trust our doctors by putting our health in their hands. When doctors violate their oath to do no harm, we must take action -- especially when it comes to illegally prescribing opioids. I'm grateful for our investigative partners ... for successfully putting a stop to this doctor's harmful practices," Bonta said.
According to prosecutors, Kemprud had developed a reputation for prescribing highly addictive, commonly abused medications such as Hydrocodone, Alprazolam and Oxycodone "outside the usual course of professional practice and not for legitimate medical purpose."
"Instead, he wrote more prescriptions for highly addictive and dangerous controlled substances, charging $79 a visit. He churned out prescriptions so quickly that he often spent less than five minutes with a patient and would see 30 patients in less than a day," prosecutors said.
Several pharmacies were apparently so alarmed by the doctor's record that they instituted company-wide policies to block his prescriptions, according to prosecutors.
An undercover operation helped unravel the scheme, prosecutors said, noting that officers' testimony at the trial showed Kemprud on 14 occasions between September 2018 and March 2019 "prescribed opioids without determining the patients' medical and prescription histories, without conducting a proper medical examination, without confirming the legitimacy of the patients' complaints, and without assessing the risk of aberrant drug behavior."
Kemprud was convicted of all 14 counts in the indictment last Friday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
"Fueled by greed, Edmund Kemprud went from doctor to drug dealer when he began running a prescription pill mill for powerful opioids," said Wade R. Shannon, special agent in charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Kemprud's actions not only preyed upon those battling addiction, but also contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis. This verdict underscores our commitment to hold unscrupulous doctors accountable for their actions," Shannon added.
Agencies involved in the investigation included the DEA's Oakland Tactical Diversion Squad, California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse Drug Diversion Team and the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Assistant U.S. attorney Veronica M.A. Alegría and special assistant U.S. attorney Robert J. Artuz prosecuted the case.