A former psychiatrist arrested by Redondo Beach police in April 2010 for writing unnecessary prescriptions for Adderall, Xanax and other medications out of his West Hollywood clinic was sentenced Tuesday to time served and three years probation.
In January, Hollywood resident Dr. Nathan Kuemmerle, 38, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to a single charge of distribution of a controlled substance—180 tablets of Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug.
City News Service reported that after his arrest, Kuemmerle began court-ordered residential drug rehabilitation, and he told U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee on Tuesday that he had graduated from the program. He said he was grateful that he was given the opportunity to fight his addiction.
"You saved my life," he told Gee as he thanked the judge.
Kuemmerle's behavior before his arrest was negligent and careless, but not as egregious as the prosecution initially said, according to his lawyer, Deputy Federal Public Defender John L. Littrell.
"The government has portrayed Dr. Kuemmerle as being the leader of the conspiracy … but I think they've got it wrong," he said in his argument for probation. Littrell also said his client "had to overcome the fact that he's gay … that he's got HIV … and that he was addicted to methamephetamine."
Kuemmerle has not attempted to renew his medical license.
For his part, Kuemmerle, who has not attempted to renew his medical license, told the judge that he was "shocked and horrified" by tapes that showed him under the influence of methamphetamine at the clinic. "I could have put my patients' lives in jeopardy," he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Christensen disagreed with Littrell's characterization of his client. In her arguments, she said Kuemmerle wrote the prescriptions because he was "a drug addict."
"That is what motivated him .. to get money" to buy meth, she said.
In handing down the sentence, Gee said was "involved in an unhealthy lifestyle."
"Many of the so-called 'smartest guys in the room' have met their downfall" because they were arrogant, the judge said. Nevertheless, she said Kuemmerle posed no risk to outsiders "as long as he remains drug-free and does not have access to a prescription pad."
Kuemmerle's arrest last year stemmed from a yearlong investigation by the Redondo Beach Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Tactical Diversion Squad.
Officers began looking into Kuemmerle's prescription-writing habits after arresting a man who offered Adderall for sale on Craigslist. The man, in turn, said Kuemmerle gave him the prescriptions for the Adderall, according to an April 2010 news release from the DEA. He also told police that Kuemmerle wrote him prescriptions for him on multiple occasions without examining him.
At the time, federal officials also alleged that Kuemmerle told the informant that to pay for the informant's prescriptions for Subutex, which cost $15 per tablet, he should sell the Adderall on Craigslist.
Law enforcement officers confirmed the informant's information by going undercover.
"On the first visit, an undercover police officer received prescriptions for both [Adderall and Xanax] during his first visit to Kuemmerle's clinic, a visit that lasted only eight minutes and cost $150," according to the news release.
The doctor also called himself a "fame monster," according to multiple articles published at the time of his arrest, and he threatened an undercover officer posing as a patient.
Kuemmerle, who was unaware of the investigation, told the officer, "I will hire the mafia and kill you," authorities told the Los Angeles Times.
At the time of his arrest, federal prosecutors said Kuemmerle was the No. 1 prescriber of the most powerful dosage of Adderall in California during 2009. He was also the No. 2 prescriber of a certain class of federally regulated drugs which includes oxycodone and hydrocodone.
The doctor's office manager, 29-year-old Koreatown resident Antonie "Tony" Phillips, was arrested the same day as Kuemmerle at his clinic on Santa Monica Boulevard. He pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, and will be sentenced Monday.
City News Service contributed to this report.