California doctor dubbed 'Candyman' convicted of illegal prescriptions

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - A California doctor who prosecutors say wrote prescriptions for 1.7 million doses of powerful painkillers such as OxyContin in a single year, earning the nickname the "Candyman," was found guilty on Friday on federal charges.

Julio Gabriel Diaz, 67, was convicted of 79 counts of distributing controlled substances after a two-and-a-half week trial in federal court, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

Some of Diaz' patients, who often waited hours for a 10-minute visit with the doctor at his Family Medical Clinic in Santa Barbara, California, were drug addicts, according to Mrozek, and some died of overdoses.

According to evidence presented in the case, Diaz wrote prescriptions for more than 1.7 million doses of painkillers in 2011 and was dubbed the "Candyman" by some of his patients.

Several doctors and pharmacists who testified during the trial said that they had never seen a doctor authorise the combination and quantity of drugs prescribed by Diaz, Mrozek said.

Diaz, who was arrested in January 2012 and subsequently saw his medical licence revoked by the state of California, faces a maximum punishment of 1,360 years behind bars, although federal sentencing guidelines typically call for much less time.