All four former employees of a Hilo physician raided by authorities in October 2018 for over-prescription and illegal distribution of opioid painkillers and other narcotics have been sentenced on drug trafficking charges.
Marie Benevides, who was 80 when federal and local law enforcers raided the clinic of Dr. Ernest Bade, was sentenced Thursday in Honolulu to a year of probation by U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor.
Benevides and the others pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to distribute and Schedule II and IV controlled substances, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, carisoprodal and alprazolam.
Under terms of the plea deal, Benevides could’ve been sentenced to up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Benevides’ attorney told the court his client suffered a heart attack that hospitalized her for 11 days, according to court documents, but medical records provided by Benevides were sealed by the court.
Benevides’ daughter, Yvonne Caitano — who was Bade’s office manager and 54 when the raid occurred — received the harshest sentence.
On Tuesday, Gillmor sentenced Caitano, who didn’t have a plea deal, to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The judge — who disagreed with Caitano’s attorney’s description of Caitano as “not an organizer, leader, manager or supervisor of others in the offense” — also fined Caitano $10,000.
Caitano, who is not in custody, was ordered to surrender to a federal corrections facility not yet specified in court documents by 2 p.m. March 31.
Sheena Strong, Caitano’s daughter who was 32 when the raid occurred, was sentenced Jan. 17 by Gillmor to 27 months imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release.
According to a court document, Strong will serve her sentence at the minimum-security federal women’s prison in Dublin, Calif. She was ordered to undergo 500 hours of drug and alcohol treatment in a nine-month program administered by the Bureau of Prisons, plus educational and vocational training.
Strong, who could’ve been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined up to $1 million, was ordered to surrender to federal authorities to start serving her sentence before 2 p.m. Feb. 27.
Theresa Saltus, who was 59 when the raid occurred, was sentenced Feb. 13 to two years of probation.
Under terms of her plea agreement, Saltus could have been sentenced to up to four years in prison and fined up to $250,000.
Federal prosecutors said the women flew to Maui to obtain large quantities of the prescription painkillers after Hilo pharmacies stopped filling Bade’s prescriptions. The four women collectively obtained more than 10,000 30 mg oxycodone pills between September 2016 and the raid by federal agents on Bade’s Osorio Lane office on Oct. 16, 2018, according to court documents.
A 14-year-old living with Caitano was made to assist Caitano in distributing pharmaceuticals and collecting payment and would be verbally and physically abused if the transactions were irregular, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Court documents state the minor furnished the DEA with specific details about Bade’s operation.
Bade, who was 80 when his office was raided, was charged with 40 counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances, but charges against him were dropped in June after Gillmor ruled Bade incompetent to stand trial, based on a court-appointed psychiatrist’s report that concluded the former general practitioner suffers from dementia.
Bade’s license to practice medicine was forfeited in June, according to the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website.
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaii tribune-herald.com.