Doctor gets prison, $15K fine for 'roving pain management clinic'


GULFPORT -- A Georgia doctor accused of running a roving pain management clinic in South Mississippi has been fined $15,000 and sentenced to prison for five years.

Dr. Sanjay Sinha, 51, of Woodstock, Ga., also will have five years of probation. He can no longer prescribe medicine.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden gave Sinha the maximum prison term for distributing and dispensing a controlled substance outside the scope of professional practice.

Ozerden sentenced him Thursday after hearing two days of legal arguments and testimony.

Sinha and three co-defendants from South Mississippi were arrested in March 2014 through a state and federal investigation named Operation Double Down Doc. Sinha was accused of operating a pill ring to recoup his gambling losses and using casino workers to build his clientele.

He wrote prescriptions for cash, gave "patients" little or no physical exams and didn't check to see if they were receiving the same prescriptions from other doctors, according to testimony.

The drugs included hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam and clonazepam.

Sinha ultimately was charged a third time in a 40-count indictment involving prescriptions written over six years, from as early as 2008.

His attorneys this week objected to information used to help determine his punishment. Christopher Smith and Morgan Holder argued that Sinha's co-defendants recruited him and convinced him to write illegal prescriptions. They said Sinha was less culpable and deserved a lesser sentence than recommended.

U.S. Attorney John Meynardie argued that Sinha had written illegal prescriptions for more than 180 patients and only a small portion of them were recruited by his co-defendants.

His co-defendants "were all fueled by their addiction, an addiction that in some cases was caused in the first place by Dr. Sinha," Meynardie said in a written motion.

"Dr. Sinha was fueled by greed and the need to pay mounting gambling troubles," Meynardie said.

Sinha had practiced at a Jesup, Ga., clinic but was fired, Meynardie said. Two of his former co-workers provided letters that raised concerns about his patient care and ethics, Meynardie said.

"If true, Dr. Sinha clearly had an idea of what he was required to do and intentionally chose not to in his 'roving pain management clinic' in Mississippi."

Sinha had allowed his Drug Enforcement Administration registration to lapse in February 2013.

"For reasons that remain unclear," Sinha tried to renew his DEA registration in July, a month after he accepted a plea deal, Meynardie said.

The prosecutor also had planned to prove Sinha charged $100 per prescription and refused to write refills until he was paid.

Court documents show Sinha wrote 83 prescriptions for co-defendant James Joshua Locke over a three-year period. Many of Locke's prescriptions in 2010 and 2011 were called in to an Ocean Springs pharmacy, which alerted authorities.

Sinha's co-defendants have each pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute hydrocodone.

Locke, 37, and Robert Thornton II, 36, both of Biloxi, were each fined $8,000. Locke was sentenced to prison for 41 months. Thornton received an 18-month prison term.

John Mattina, 44, of Ocean Springs, was fined $5,000 and was placed on probation for five years.