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Former Modesto doctor pleads guilty to writing illegal prescriptions for narcotic drugs

A former Modesto doctor pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of illegally prescribing opioid drugs and other medication.

Sawtantra Chopra, 76, was prosecuted in the federal court in Fresno. He pleaded guilty to three counts of prescribing drugs including hydrocodone and Xanax to patients without a legitimate medical need, according to a Department of Justice news release.

The prosecution said the narcotic drugs prescribed by the doctor, also including Promethazine with codeine syrup, are highly addictive and often abused by drug-seeking patients. The drugs affecting the central nervous system may be prescribed by physicians only for a medical purpose.

Chopra was a pulmonologist, or lung specialist, seeing patients in Modesto. He surrendered his medical license to the state in 2020 as the charges were pending. The news release said Chopra admitted to investigators that he prescribed the drugs without a legitimate medical reason.

He is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 5. The three counts have a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence is at the discretion of the court after federal sentencing guidelines are considered.

Chopra’s prescribing activity was investigated by the state Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI and Internal Revenue Service.