Indian-American doctor in California arrested for allegedly prescribing opioids illegally

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An Indian-American physician was arrested at his home in Modesto, California, April 26, and charged with allegedly prescribing opioids to patients illegally.

On April 19, a federal grand jury in Fresno brought a 22-count indictment against Dr. Sawtantra Kumar Chopra, 71, which led to his arrest a week later. The Modesto Bee reported that Chopra’s arrest was the result of a year-long sting operation conducted by drug enforcement agents.

According to the U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra who made the announcement of Chopra’s arrest, prescription drug abuse is a serious public health crisis that harms families and communities throughout California, a press release from the Justice Department says.

The charges are only allegations and Chopra is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if convicted, Chopra faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison, though the final sentence depends on the court which considers a variety of factors apart from the existing sentencing guidelines.

According to the indictment, between March 2017 and March 2018, on 22 occasions Chopra allegedly prescribed highly addictive, commonly abused prescription drugs, including hydrocodone, alprazolam (Xanax), and Promethazine with codeine syrup — “outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose,” the press release says.