KEALAKEKUA — Sentencing has been postponed for a Kona doctor who earlier this year pleaded guilty to prescription fraud.
Dr. Clifton Arrington appeared Sept. 21 before 3rd Circuit Court Judge Melvin Fujino where his defense counsel, Richard H.S. Sing, requested his client’s sentencing be delayed from Oct. 23 to January 2019. According to Sing’s motion, Arrington was requesting the continuance so he could have more time to arrange for the transfer of his medical practice to another physician and/or arrange for the transfer of his active patients to another physician, or both.
“Defendant is not trying to sell his practice but trying to find a way to transfer hundreds of patients to other physician(s),” Sing’s motion states.
Arrington has been practicing medicine in Kealakekua for more than 35 years. He specializes in anti-aging medicine and is licensed and registered by the Department of Public Safety as a person who is able to distribute, dispense or conduct research with respect to a controlled substance.
“Defendant is concerned that immediately after sentencing, his license to practice medicine will be in immediate jeopardy, and he will not be able to transition his practice to another without impacting his patients. Defendant is doing what he can now to resolve this problem,” the motion indicates.
The prosecution filed a motion in opposition to Sing’s request for a continuance. Deputy Prosecutor Kate Deleon stated the defendant was aware of the consequences regarding his medical license when he changed his plea in March.
“There has been no change in circumstances since the defendant changed his plea that warrant a continuance,” Deleon’s motion states.
According to Sing’s motion, most of Arrington’s practice serves those who qualify for and utilize Medicare and Medicaid.
“Many of those he treats are older and/or are medication-reliant,” the motion states. “Defendant has been trying to find a physician who is willing to take over his practice. This has been very difficult as there is a shortage of physicians serving rural communities, running a solo practice is a daunting task, and Medicare and Medicaid patients are not as profitable as patients with private medical insurance.”
During the Sept. 21 hearing, Sing told the court that Arrington saw 3,963 patients in 2017. Through September of this year, he has seen 2,830. Sing added his client has been able to refer out and diminish his patient load to about 1,800.
“These are the ones that need medication on a monthly basis, those are the hard ones to deal with because there isn’t a physician in town who is regularly accepting patients,” Sing said during the hearing according to court minutes.
While in Sing’s motion he indicated there was an individual willing to take over Arrington’s practice, during the hearing he said the individual had since pulled out.
Arrington will surrender his narcotics license before Oct. 23. According to the minutes, the doctors has gotten pain management patients to zero and has referred them.
“All that is left is the medication reliant ones that are not pain management,” the court minutes state.
Fujino granted the motion and sentencing is now scheduled for Jan. 29, 2019.
Arrington has pleaded guilty to one count of prohibited acts B in which he predated or pre-signed prescriptions to facilitate the obtaining or attempted obtaining of controlled substances. He also pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, one count of second-degree promotion of a harmful drug and two counts of second-degree promotion of a harmful drug as a lesser offense.
According to the plea agreement, the prosecution has agreed to seek probation.
“Neither party will seek a prison term or any enhanced or consecutive sentencing,” the agreement states.
Additionally, the prosecution and defense agree Arrington’s 200 hours of community service will not be converted to a fine.
The Ocean View man was first arrested at his North Kona office in Honalo Business Center by the state Narcotics Enforcement Division on March 17, 2016, while patients were awaiting appointments. At the time, Arrington was released pending the investigation.
After the indictment was filed in the 3rd Circuit Court on Aug. 8, 2017, Arrington turned himself in a few days later and was released on supervised release, according to court documents.