A Torrance doctor agreed this week to close his practice for one year after pleading no contest to illegally dispensing diet pills. He also faces cocaine charges that could send him to jail.
Dr. Martin Fred Bain, 61, was sentenced Monday for prescribing diet pills without examining a patient and for allowing an unqualified office assistant to do the same. In a plea agreement ratified by South Bay Municipal Court Judge Josh Fredericks, Bain was fined $5,640 and placed on three years probation. He also accepted a one-year closure of his office beginning May 7.
"Hopefully, this will mean that he will not subject any more of our citizens to the improper practice of medicine," said Jesse Rodriguez, assistant Torrance city prosecutor.
On Tuesday Bain was also ordered by South Bay Municipal Court Judge Benjamin Aranda to face a preliminary hearing May 7 on charges of cocaine possession and cocaine intoxication.
These charges, filed in 1988, had been held in abeyance and would have been dismissed if Bain completed a drug diversion program. But the district attorney's office argued Tuesday that Bain had forfeited his right to diversion and should stand trial because of his conviction in the unrelated diet-pill case.
Aranda agreed and ordered Bain to face the preliminary hearing. If convicted of the cocaine charges, Bain would face a mandatory 90-day sentence in County Jail.
This week's court actions follow several years of troubles for Bain, who has been accused by the Medical Board of California of treating patients while under the influence of drugs.
One patient reported to the medical board in 1986, for example, that Bain appeared groggy when he greeted her, kept her waiting for nearly 1 1/2 hours and referred to her husband's chart, rather than her own. The doctor told the woman she had a cyst behind one knee, although she had not seen a lump there, and proceeded to drain it by poking a needle through her stockinged leg, according to a medical board report.
"We believe that Dr. Bain is a danger, not only to himself but to the public as well," a medical board official wrote in a 1989 letter to Judge Aranda.
Complaints about Bain led to an undercover investigation last summer by medical regulators. The investigators charged that, on two occasions, Bain and office assistant Linda M. Sanchez prescribed diet pills to undercover investigators who had received little or no medical examination. One of the agents was five feet tall and weighed only 90 pounds.
The investigation led to seven misdemeanor charges that Bain violated the state's Business and Professions Code by issuing improper prescriptions and broke the Penal Code by allowing his unlicensed assistant to practice medicine.
Bain pleaded no contest in March to two of those charges, and five others were dismissed in the plea agreement. The case was completed Monday with the suspension of Bain's practice, the fine and probation.
Sanchez pleaded no contest last year to a misdemeanor charge and was placed on probation.
At the time of the undercover operation, Bain was already enrolled in a diversion program after being pulled over in November, 1988, by a sheriff's deputy and charged with cocaine possession and intoxication.
Even before Bain's arrest on the diet-pill charges, Deputy Dist. Atty. Diana Teran had argued that Bain was unsuitable for drug diversion and should be placed on formal probation, with regular drug testing.
Bain had passed tests for cocaine use during his diversion, but another official in the district attorney's office said the tests were suspect since they were administered by another Torrance doctor, Alfred Bach, who himself pleaded guilty last year to a charge of cocaine possession.
Also on Tuesday, the district attorney's office protested the actions of Bain's lawyer, South Bay defense attorney Michael Norris, in the cocaine case.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Sandy Buttitta told Aranda that Norris "misrepresented" the doctor's record during a March hearing in the judge's chambers.
Norris told Aranda in March that charges in the diet-pill case were still pending and that, therefore, Bain was still a candidate for drug diversion. But, Buttitta said, Bain had pleaded no contest to the charges just minutes before in a neighboring courtroom, disqualifying him for the program.
Buttitta on Tuesday asked Aranda to cite Norris for contempt.
Norris denied that he intentionally misrepresented Bain's record.
Aranda declined to issue a contempt citation, saying he was satisfied that Norris had not intentionally misled him.