A former San Fernando physician convicted of improperly prescribing powerful painkillers to drug addicts and undercover drug agents was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay a $1-million fine.
The sentence was justified by the scope of Masoud Bamdad's "pill mill," the seriousness of his illicit prescribing and his apparent lack of remorse, U.S. District Court Judge George Wu told the court.
Wu cited the prosecution's report that for three years running — including 2008, the year of his arrest —Bamdad ranked among the state's highest prescribers of oxycodone, a powerful narcotic popularly known as "synthetic heroin." The volume of his prescriptions exceeded that of many hospitals and pain management clinics, Wu said.
"The offense that was involved here is extremely serious," Wu said. "The amount of drug distributed sort of boggles the mind. And it was not victimless."
A jury convicted Bamdad, 56, in May of 13 counts of illegal drug distribution. Prosecutors portrayed Bamdad as a common drug dealer who sold prescriptions for dangerous drugs to addicts — including teenagers — and others for cash.
The practice netted his Maclay Avenue clinic about $30,000 a week, or $1.5 million a year, authorities said. Prosecutors said Bamdad was motivated by greed, adding that he lived in a Granada Hills mansion, owned several luxury cars and funneled millions of dollars to his native Iran by making cash runs to banks in Mexico.
The prosecutors portrayed Bamdad as the leader of a long-running criminal enterprise that began in 2006 after the physician was convicted of insurance fraud and his cosmetic surgery business sagged. They said that scheme included street dealers who recruited and drove homeless people from San Diego to pose as pain patients.
Jurors deadlocked on an allegation that Bamdad was responsible for the overdose death of 23-year-old patient Alex Clyburn. But Wu allowed Clyburn's parents to testify at the daylong sentencing hearing and considered the doctor's role in prescribing the drugs involved as a factor in the sentence.
Bamdad "was a significant contributor in the death of my son," Ronald Clyburn told the court.
The sentence was less than the 40 years and $2-million fine sought by prosecutors but far more than the home confinement Bamdad had sought.
The hearing was marked by outbursts from Bamdad, who openly quarreled with Michael Brush, the latest in a series of lawyers hired by Bamdad. At the start of the hearing, the physician threatened to fire Brush and complained to the judge about the performance of the lawyer who represented him at trial.
Brush openly reprimanded his client for speaking directly to the judge and repeatedly told him to keep quiet and let him do his job. Wearing a dingy white jail suit and handcuffs tethered to a waist chain, Bamdad fumbled at the defense table with piles of papers — research he had conducted into an obscure writ that the judge denied, as well as into U.S. sentencing laws — and repeatedly demanded to speak.
When his turn came to address Wu, Bamdad ignored his lawyer's audible plea to apologize and launched into a rambling, half-hour diatribe against prosecutors, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the expert physician witness who testified against him, and even some of his patients and their families.
After about 25 minutes, Wu gave him five minutes to wrap up. Bamdad turned to the speech his lawyer urged him to read.
"I hope and pray," he concluded through tears, "that you agree with me that justice is not served by denying me the opportunity to spend the closing chapter of my life with those I love," Bamdad said, referring to his wife and three daughters who sat in the front row.