Portales doctor indicted for methadone prescriptions

Staff and wire reports

A Portales doctor accused by the state of illegally prescribing methadone to an undercover agent is now the subject of a federal case made by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Dr. Patricia J. Green, who operates the Sparrow Family Medical Clinic, was released on her own recognizance Friday after appearing before U.S. Magistrate Daniel Schneider in Albuquerque on a federal indictment.

Green knew the federal charges were coming at least a week ago, said defense attorney Randall Harris of Clovis, who is teaming up with high-profile attorney Gary Mitchell of Ruidoso to represent Green.

“She’s extremely upset, she’s extremely disappointed,” Harris said, describing Green as a physician who cared for the less fortunate and carried a heavy load of indigent patients at her Portales practice.

“Dr. Green is absolutely the most compassionate caring doctor that I’ve ever known. She helps every person less fortunate… Dr. Green is the one that stands in the gap. She’s devastated, but I think she trusts the system.”

Harris said he firmly believes now that the federal case is in the hands of the U.S. Attorney’s office, they will, “decide that this is not a viable criminal (case).”

A Feb. 4 federal search warrant said a narcotics task force began investigating her last September on accusations she was prescribing methadone other than for managing pain. Agents seized files for more than 50 of her patients and paperwork from the clinic.

An affidavit by DEA investigator Lorena Rodriguez said an undercover narcotics agent wearing a body microphone went to Green for a physical exam in September to obtain a commercial driver’s license.

When Green asked if he used narcotics, he told her he’d developed a habit, according to the affidavit. Green marked “no” where the health history form asked if he used narcotics, and found he qualified for a license even though federal regulations ban drivers who use controlled substances, Rodriguez’s affidavit said.

During a second visit, the agent told Green he’d gotten hooked smoking heroin about six months previously and had been told she would prescribe something for him.

Authorities allege she told him he needed methadone and that she was prescribing it for pain, even when he denied having any. The doctor allegedly coached him about filling the prescription, saying he should say it was for pain rather than heroin because “they’ll get on my case.”

Green also faces a state charge of trafficking in a controlled substance, methadone, which was filed in September.

Harris said based on conversations he had with state prosecutors, he believes they will dismiss their case and allow the federal case to proceed.

District Attorney Matt Chandler said with forward movement of federal prosecution, his office plans to dismiss its case against Green because it’s, “in the best interest of judicial economy.” Additionally, Chandler said, “the penalty is greater in the federal system and they have more resources.”

Harris said Green is currently contemplating whether she will resume her medical practice prior to trial.

There is nothing in her conditions of release that would prevent her from working, he said.

The federal trial is set for April, however Harris said he would not be surprised if that date is delayed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.