YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — On Thursday, a federal judge denied a motion by a Lake Milton man accused of running a pill mill from his office to withdraw his guilty plea and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
Martin Escobar, 58, received the sentence in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio from U.S. Judge Donald C. Nugent to 54 counts of illegally prescribing controlled substances and 31 counts of health care fraud.
Two of the drug charges are for the deaths of two patients and a third count was for distributing drugs to a person under 21.
Escobar pleaded guilty to the charges in January. In a sentencing memorandum earlier this week, federal prosecutors had asked for a sentence of life in prison.
Court documents said Escobar was “prescribing controlled substances that were outside the usual course of health care practice,” including to people under 21. Prosecutors said two of his patients died of drug overdoses.
Prosecutors say Escobar ignored signs that his patients were becoming addicted to the medication and did not document in medical charts the reason for prescribing the controlled substances. He is also accused of failing to use other treatment options other than opioids, even increasing dosages for prolonged periods of time without evidence that the treatment plan was working.
He is also accused of billing insurance companies and the government for the work he was doing.
Prosecutors looked at Escobar’s work with 51 patients between 2015 and 2019.
Last week, Escobar filed motions to change legal counsel and to withdraw his guilty pleas.
Escobar’s new attorneys said in their motion to withdraw his guilty pleas that a change in the law because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has made him change his mind about his plea. The high court ruling now states that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a doctor knew he was acting in an unauthorized manner or intended to do so.
Because Escobar was never informed of that element of the charges against him, it means he entered into a guilty plea without knowing all the elements the government has to prove, which makes his plea defective, his new attorneys wrote.
Judge Nugent approved the request to allow Escobar to change legal counsel but denied his motion to withdraw his pleas.
It is not yet known if Escobar will appeal.