April 24, 2019
Contact: Special Agent Randy Ladd
Phone Number: (720-895-4294)
Parker doctor sentenced for illegally distributing controlled substances
DENVER – Dr. John Alan Littleford, DO, age 73, of Manhattan, Kansas and formerly of Parker, Colorado, was sentenced yesterday by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn to serve 87 months in federal prison followed by three years on supervised release for charges related to the illegal distribution of controlled substances and money laundering, U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn, DEA Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Tim McDermott and IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Steven Osborne announced. Littleford was ordered to report to a facility once designated by the Bureau of Prisons.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the defendant’s plea agreement as well as court filings, Dr. Littleford owned and operated the Pain & Injury Clinic in Parker, Colorado. Dr. Littleford held himself out as a practitioner in the field of “pain management,” although he did not have any certification in that field and had not completed a medical residency which would have been directly applicable to the field of pain management.
The DEA opened a criminal investigation into Dr. Littleford in late February 2012 because doctors and pharmacists throughout the Denver metropolitan area expressed concerns about the prescribing practices they were seeing and local law enforcement had repeated encounters with Dr. Littleford’s patients. On Oct. 31, 2012, the Colorado Medical Board issued an Order of Summary Suspension which suspended Dr. Littleford’s license to practice medicine in Colorado, effective on Nov. 5, 2012, until final resolution of additional proceedings for suspension or revocation. On Nov. 9, 2012, the defendant voluntarily surrendered his DEA registration. On Nov. 14, 2012, the defendant entered into a Stipulation and Final Agency Order with the Colorado Medical Board which voluntarily and permanently relinquished his license to practice medicine in Colorado, effective Nov. 16, 2012.
Evidence offered in support of Littleford’s sentencing showed he routinely prescribed large quantities of opioids, often in conjunction with benzodiazepines, without any diagnosis and with very little documentation in the patient files. On one occasion, Littleford’s notes, which accompanied prescriptions for 840 oxycodone 30mg tablets, 360 Percocet tablets, 120 Oxycontin 80mg tablets, 240 MSContin 100mg tablets, and 240 Klonopin 2mg tablets, noted that Littleford’s diagnosis for the patient was simply, “?”. Littleford’s file for that same patient also included strong warnings from other physicians who had seen the patient, including one which said, “these doses of medication from my perspective were incompatible with his long-term survival.” That patient died just over a month later from oxycodone toxicity as a result of taking controlled substances Littleford prescribed. Littleford pled guilty to distributing controlled substances to that patient and, through his plea agreement, agreed the Court could consider his distribution of controlled substances to that patient on several occasions in adjudging an appropriate sentence.
Littleford regularly provided controlled substances prescriptions to patients well before their prior prescriptions should have run out. The evidence presented at Littleford’s sentencing showed those patients occasionally presented with withdrawal symptoms and clear drug-seeking behavior. One such patient, whom Littleford’s plea agreement agreed the Court could consider as relevant at sentencing, died of complications from acute oxycodone toxicity after taking oxycodone Littleford prescribed. The progress note associated with the final prescriptions Littleford wrote that patient said the patient’s chief complaint was that he was “begging to feel things.” In response to that complaint, Littleford provided the patient with prescriptions for 300 oxycodone 30mg tablets and 10 Fentora (fentanyl) 200mcg tablets.
Littleford did not taper or reduce the amounts of controlled substances he was prescribing to patients who were physically deteriorating. Instead, he repeatedly justified his prescriptions of controlled substances to outside insurance companies and courts before whom his patients had pending criminal cases. For several patients, his files were characterized by a remarkable lack of documentation related to the prescriptions he wrote for controlled substances.
Littleford also pled guilty to and was sentenced for money laundering in order to promote his illegal distribution of controlled substances at the Pain & Injury Clinic.
In accordance with Littleford’s plea agreement, the Court considered his distribution of controlled substances to seven different individuals he saw at the Pain & Injury Clinic—involving more than 14,000 pills of various opioids, amphetamines, benzodiazepines and muscle relaxants as well as fentanyl patches and hundreds of vials of injectable meperidine.
“Doctors who prescribe narcotics outside the scope of accepted medical practice are adding to the opioid epidemic,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn. “Dr. Littleford’s prosecution is part of our increased effort to stop the harm of prescription drugs and protect those vulnerable to addiction.”
“The continued successful prosecution of doctors who prescribe outside the scope of medical necessity shows the opioid epidemic is far from over,” said DEA Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Tim McDermott. “DEA has and will continue to use all resources to combat this epidemic.”
“Doctors who illegally distribute prescription drugs are a major contributor to the current opioid crisis and a scourge on society. Without the ill-gotten gains from their illegal distribution, many of these doctors could not finance their criminal activity. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to investigating the financial aspect of those crimes and putting those individuals in jail,” said Steven Osborne, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation.
This case was investigated by the DEA Denver Division and IRS Criminal Investigation.
The defendant is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter McNeilly and Jaime Peña.