YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Federal prosecutors said Monday in a sentencing memorandum that a doctor who asked to take back his guilty pleas should not expect the kid glove treatment when it comes time for sentencing.
The memorandum in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio also said that the actions of Dr. Martin Escobar, 58, led to the overdose deaths of two of his patients.
Escobar is set to be sentenced Thursday by U.S. Judge Donald C. Nugent after pleading guilty in January to 54 of 55 counts in an indictment charging him with running a pill mill from his Lake Milton office.
Escobar filed separate motions last month to change legal counsel and withdraw his guilty pleas. Judge Nugent has yet to rule on those motions.
In the sentencing memorandum for the government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliot Morrison wrote that when Escobar entered into his guilty pleas, he also agreed to a provision that stated if he made a motion to withdraw his pleas, he would lose any benefits that were guaranteed by the pleas.
Morrison wrote that because of the seriousness of his crimes, Escobar should be sentenced to 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.
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.
Morrison wrote that because of his practices, two of Escobar’s patients died of drug overdoses and his actions also contributed to the deaths of several more.
“Defendant not only profited off of not only feeding addiction, as common drug dealers do, but off of creating and growing his patients’ addictions and shielding addiction from forces that might — against the odds — defeat it,” Morrison wrote.