Updated at 5:09 p.m. Aug. 31, 2016:
A doctor who works at an East County pain-control clinic was arrested and charged Wednesday with dispensing powerful painkillers to patients without legitimate medical reasons and providing the drugs to addicts in exchange for sex.
Federal agents took Dr. Naga Raja Thota, a board certified anesthesiologist, into custody this morning at his workplace in the 2700 block of Navajo Road in El Cajon, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The 62-year-old Lake Murray-area resident made his initial court appearance this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal. The judge ordered Thota released from custody as long as he posts a $100,000 property bond by Sept. 9.
During a several-year investigation, agents identified three alleged victims in the case, said Thomas Lenox, supervisory special agent with the DEA’s Pharmaceutical Drug Task Force. Thota is accused of prescribing the women, ranging in age from early 20s to early 30s, various narcotics, including hydrocodone, methadone and oxycodone.
He allegedly went on to use the painkillers as “the carrot he held out” to his victims to coerce them into intimate relationships with him, according to Lenox. One of the women later moved on to heroin abuse, the DEA agent said.
Defense attorney Robert Schlein said Thota “cares about people” and “is not a predator,” as authorities allege.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Orlando Gutierrez told the judge that Thota violated his duty as a doctor by prescribing drugs in exchange for sex acts.
Thota upped the dosage on a prescription for a 20-year-old women without telling her, and the woman felt she couldn’t get more of the drug unless she performed sex acts on the defendant, the prosecutor alleged.
The defendant also bought a laptop computer and made a car payment for the woman, Gutierrez said.
Another woman threatened to take allegations of abuse to the DEA, and Thota paid her money not to do so, the prosecutor told the judge.
Thota has been involved in two medical malpractice cases and one professional negligence case in the San Diego area, NBC 7 reported.
— City News Service
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