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Dog X-ray used in arrest of doctor in prescription probe

Dr. Rolando Lodevico Atiga is accused of improperly prescribing addictive medications after an undercover deputy showed him a dog X-ray to get Roxicodone.

July 13, 2012|By Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times
  • Glendora police lead Dr. Rolando Lodevico Atiga from his clinic in Glendora. He allegedly gave an undercover deputy a pain prescription after being shown a dog X-ray.
Glendora police lead Dr. Rolando Lodevico Atiga from his clinic in Glendora.… (Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles…)

The undercover sheriff's deputy pretending to be a patient in pain presented a Glendora physician with an X-ray to accompany her tale of an injured back and neck.

The only problem was the X-ray revealed a "tail" of a different kind — one belonging to a dog.

Though the X-ray for a German shepherd had the dog's name, Recon, and the name of an animal hospital printed on it, the doctor wrote the deputy a prescription for a powerful narcotic painkiller and a muscle relaxant, law enforcement officials said.

On Thursday, authorities raided the clinic of Dr. Rolando Lodevico Atiga and arrested him on suspicion of improperly prescribing addictive medications to people with no legitimate medical need for them.

As he was led handcuffed from his urgent care clinic off the 210 Freeway, Atiga said he did not know what charges he faced. "I can't say if I've done anything wrong or anything right," he said.

Atiga, 69, has been under investigation by Glendora police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force for about two months, officials said. The doctor wrote prescriptions to three deputies posing as patients, they said.

The deputy who showed Atiga the dog X-ray told the doctor she was in a car accident several weeks before her visit and needed "something way stronger" than the Tylenol she claimed to be taking, according to an audio recording of the visit reviewed by The Times.

The doctor asked few questions before listing the drugs he could prescribe.

"Do you want to try Vicodin ES?" he asked. "Or do you want to try others? ... Roxicodone? Or oxycodone? ... Or whatever you want....Maybe some Valium or Xanax."

The deputy chose Roxicodone and pulled out two X-rays of the dog. Atiga examined them and referred to specific bones, explaining what they were to the agent, according to the recording.

"That's the hip joint right there," the doctor said, apparently indicating one of the dog's bones.

Glendora police had received complaints "that for the right amount of cash" the doctor would "write prescriptions for you" and pocket the cash, Police Capt. Timothy Staab said.

"He was well-known among drug addicts and prescription medication addicts," Staab said. "He was the doctor to go to."

The doctor is believed to have asked patients, who paid hundreds of dollars for prescriptions, to give his receptionist a $50 tip "for her time and troubles," Staab said.

Atiga has a prior felony conviction for taking illegal kickbacks in return for referring Medicare patients for home health services, according to state medical board records.

Atiga also has been disciplined by the Medical Board of California, which has placed his medical license on probation, records show.

In 2010, the medical board required the doctor to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Doctors evaluating him expressed concern that he might have had "early signs of dementia," according to medical board documents.

In 1996, the doctor's license was placed on probation after accusations that included excessive prescribing, medical board records show.

Authorities on Thursday spent hours searching Atiga's clinic as well as his home in Glendora.

The doctor was released from custody Thursday afternoon pending further investigation and charges by the district attorney's office, police said.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

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