An undercover sheriff’s deputy pretending to be a patient duped a southern California physician into giving her a powerful pain medication by showing him X-rays of an injured back and neck.
Dr. Rolando Lodevico Atiga obliged, writing the deputy a prescription for Roxicodone – never noticing that the X-rays were for a dog, a German shepherd named Recon.
“That’s the hip joint right there,” the doctor said in an audio recording of the visit, apparently failing to recognize the dog’s tail or the name of an animal hospital printed on the X-ray.
The undercover deputy told Atiga she was injured in a car accident weeks earlier and needed “something way stronger” than Tylenol to control her pain.
“Do you want to try Vicodin ES?” Atiga asked. “Or do you want to try others? Roxicodone? Or oxycodone? Or whatever you want. Maybe some Valium and Xanax?”
The deputy settled on Roxicodone and a muscle relaxant, and paid Atiga $400.
The Glendora physician was arrested Thursday after a two month investigation by Glendora police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The doctor also wrote prescriptions for two other deputies posing as patients, according to investigators.
Police say Dr. Atiga was well known among drug addicts and prescription drug abusers, who would pay hundreds of dollars in cash for prescriptions. Atiga often encouraged them to tip his receptionist on the way out “for her time and troubles,” according to Glendora Police Capt. Timothy Staab.
The 69-year-old Atiga has a previous felony conviction for taking illegal kickbacks in return for Medicare referrals.
In 2010, Atiga was placed on probation by the Medical Board of California for excessive prescribing of medications. The board also ordered Atiga to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and doctors who evaluated him were concerned he had early signs of dementia.
Atiga has been released from jail on his own recognizance.