A former Virginia doctor is facing a lengthy prison sentence after pleading guilty to five felony counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance outside the scope of his professional practice.
Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Dr. Robert M. Cao, 39, of Lafayette, Louisiana, who previously practiced in Falls Church, prescribed various narcotic pain medications in the months and days leading up to an overdose death in Virginia last year.
U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves said Cao was licensed to practice medicine in the District and Virginia.
Court documents show that, on May 31, 2021, first responders were dispatched to a residence in Fairfax after the unnamed victim’s girlfriend found him cold and non-responsive.
Medical officials pronounced the victim dead at the scene and declared the death occurred “under suspicious circumstances.”
A subsequent autopsy report documented the cause of death as acute combined oxycodone and ethanol poisoning.
On the nightstand next to where the victim, identified only as “V.C.,” was found were prescription bottles, including one containing Percocet – a brand name of the narcotic analgesic oxycodone/acetaminophen – pills filled on May 23, 2021.
The bottle identified Cao as the prescribing doctor.
As part of his guilty plea, Cao admitted that on at least five occasions in 2021, he knowingly and intentionally wrote a man identified in court documents as “V.C.” prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone, Schedule II controlled substances with a high potential for abuse.
Cao provided the narcotic prescriptions to the victim without having any doctor-patient relationship with him, without any physical examination, diagnosis, or treatment plan, and knowing that the victim had no medical condition that would necessitate such prescriptions.
Court filings also detail text message exchanges between Cao and “V.C.,” including discussions about Cao prescribing narcotic pain medications to “V.C.” in exchange for agreeing to give Cao a kickback of some of the pills he had prescribed, and meetings between the two, including a meeting in a parking lot on the night before the man’s death so Cao could get a portion of the narcotic pills from “V.C.”
As detailed in court documents, Cao took several steps to avoid detection from law enforcement and regulatory authorities.
For example, according to a news release, he advised the victim not to create a paper trail and to fill the prescriptions when they were least likely to be questioned by pharmacies.
Prosecutors said Cao also hid the pad he used to write the man prescriptions, which Cao took from a D.C. cosmetic office where he previously worked, at his home inside a hollowed-out container made to look like a diary.
After learning of the victim’s untimely death, Cao created fraudulent backdated medical records to make it appear that Cao had provided legitimate prescriptions to the victim as part of a lawful doctor-patient relationship.
Cao faces sentencing on Feb. 22.