On Wednesday, a doctor and four employees from the Bade Medical Clinic, located in Hilo, Hawaii were indicted by a federal grand jury. Dr. Ernest Bade, 80, was charged with forty counts of distribution of a controlled substance outside the normal scope of professional practice and without a legitimate medial purpose.
Dr. Bade and his office manager, Yvonne Caitano, 54, were charged with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances.
Caitano and Sheena Strong, 32, an office assistant, were charged with a separate conspiracy to further distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. Caitano, Strong, and two other office assistants—Marie Benevides, 80, and Theresa Saltus, 59—were charged with conspiring to obtain controlled substances through misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, and subterfuge.
According to the indictment, law enforcement received information from several sources that Dr. Bade was prescribing unusually large quantities of controlled substances, including powerful narcotics, sedatives, and opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine. Based on this and other information, an undercover agent posing as a patient met with Dr. Bade at his clinic a number of times.
The indictment alleges that during these appointments, Dr. Bade provided the undercover agent with multiple prescriptions of controlled substances after conducting only cursory examinations and no diagnostic testing. Dr. Bade’s clinic also allegedly provided refills for these prescriptions without any meaningful follow-up. The indictment also alleges that Dr. Bade and Caitano provided prescriptions to patients without personally examining or meeting with them.
The indictment further alleges that Caitano and Strong conspired to obtain large amounts of controlled substances through prescriptions signed by Dr. Bade, which they then further distributed to other individuals in exchange for profit. In order to continue to obtain prescription medications when several pharmacies in Hilo refused to fill Dr. Bade’s prescriptions, Caitano, Strong, Benevides, and Saltus conspired to fly from Hilo to Kahului, Maui, to fill and pick up numerous prescriptions signed by Dr. Bade and ordered prescriptions in the names of multiple individuals. These prescriptions typically involved large quantities of controlled substances, including opioids and powerful narcotics.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price for the District of Hawaii, and Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Callery of the DEA’s Honolulu Field Office.
“It is no secret that an opioid epidemic is sweeping through this country, leaving lost lives and shattered communities in its wake,” said U.S. Attorney Price. “The problem is multi-faceted and requires an all-hands-on-deck response. And as federal officials charged with protecting and serving the people of Hawaii, we plan to do everything in our power to prevent the opioid epidemic from taking hold here in the Islands.”
“This case is indicative of our goals for averting the opioid crisis that is devastating the mainland at this time,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Callery. “These arrests are a culmination of several years’ work to bring to justice those who would poison the communities of Hawaii with illicit prescription drugs and chemicals.”
An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If convicted of the charges, Dr. Ernest Bade, Yvonne Caitano, and Sheena Strong could face up to 20 years imprisonment. Marie Benevides and Theresa Saltus face up to 4 years imprisonment.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Albanese.