Psychiatrist Joel S. Dreyer goes to prison for 10 years on federal drug-prescribing charges
December 15, 2010
Nearly five years after one of his patients was found dead of an overdose, a 73-year-old former Murrieta psychiatrist has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his role in a prescription drug scheme.
Joel Stanley Dreyer had pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy and distributing a controlled substance. U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips on Monday ordered Dreyer to surrender Feb. 1 at a federal bureau of prisons medical facility in Rochester, Minn.
Dreyer prescribed "some of the most addictive and dangerous opiates without even a pretense of a physical exam," Phillips said during sentencing. "I think he shows an astounding lack of self-awareness of the seriousness of his conduct."
Investigators said Dreyer from 2004 until his July 2007 arrest had been prescribing large amounts of addictive drugs, such as the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone, for $100 to $200 per prescription. He met patients at his office as well as in parking lots and restaurants. Dreyer's patients often were young and seemingly healthy people and he did not perform physical exams before writing prescriptions, authorities said.
On at least one occasion he prescribed addictive drugs to a minor for no medical reason, and his practices contributed to the death of Jessica Silva, 35, of Orange County, prosecutors said.
Defense attorney William Ginsburg said at Monday's sentencing in a Riverside courtroom that Dreyer has been suffering for years from a degenerative brain disorder that robbed him of his moral compass but not his intellect. He said justice would not be served by sentencing a mentally ill man with about 3½ years to live to federal prison or a medical detention facility.
"He has gone mad," Ginsburg told the judge. "I beg and beseech you to show some mercy here."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoine Raphael countered that at the time of his arrest, Dreyer did not appear to be suffering any brain damage.
"This is a defendant who was lucid, who tried to outsmart the detectives," he said. "Let's be clear, your honor. This was a drug dealer."
Until shortly before his arrest, Dreyer had been employed as a staff psychiatrist at Oak Grove Institute in Murrieta, a nonprofit residential treatment facility for special-needs children. Silva, who had a history of addiction to prescription drugs, was found dead Dec. 25, 2005, in her Newport Beach home, a police report said. An oxycodone bottle with Dreyer's name as the prescribing doctor was found near her body.
Her brother, Brett Siciliano, held a portraint of Silva while speaking in court about finding her body. He blamed her death on the doctor's greed, arguing that Dreyer should have recognized that his sister needed help, not drugs.
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