ST. GEORGE — A St. George doctor was sentenced Monday to serve more than eight years in federal prison after writing bogus prescriptions for fictitious patients and illegally prescribing more than 81,000 oxycodone pain pills to people for nonmedical purposes.
During a hearing in Salt Lake City’s federal court, Dr. Simmon Lee Wilcox, 60, was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison, plus three years of probation. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart ordered Wilcox to surrender to U.S. marshals in August.
Wilcox and five others were federally indicted in 2013. Following an eight-day jury trial in January, Wilcox was convicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and one count of distribution of oxycodone. A jury acquitted Wilcox on three counts of distribution of hydrocodone. Five co-defendants in the case struck plea deals with prosecutors earlier this year.
Federal prosecutors asked that Wilcox be handed a 15-year sentence, according to court documents, while Wilcox’s attorney, Brian Frees, requested that the court impose a sentence of home confinement or supervised release in lieu of incarceration.
Frees argued that it was unfair to punish Wilcox more than the co-defendants in the case – who received sentences of no prison time and up to four years – simply because he was a doctor, according to court documents.
However, prosecutors argued that a substantial sentence was warranted in this case given Wilcox’s position as a practicing physician and that the conspiracy could not have occurred without the integral participation of Wilcox.
“Unlike every other defendant in this case, Dr. Wilcox did not accept responsibility for his actions, did not debrief with the United States, did not qualify for the safety valve provision, and did not substantially assist the government in any discernible way,” prosecutors stated in the United States Sentencing Memorandum. “Additionally, none of the other defendants had a medical degree, DEA prescription license, or practiced as a medical professional during the timeframe of the conspiracy.”
Evidence at the trial showed Dr. Wilcox wrote approximately 618 prescriptions resulting in the diversion of more than 81,000 30-mg oxycodone pills for nonmedical purposes between July 2010 and March 2013.
Prosecutors told the court that Wilcox’s actions have been seriously destructive to the Utah community, and his sentence should reflect that seriousness.
“Conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, and distribution of oxycodone, is a serious offense, especially given the toll of destruction that oxycodone has wrecked upon many communities, and upon Utah specifically,” prosecutors said in court documents. “… To be clear, Dr. Wilcox should not be held responsible for the opioid epidemic writ (at) large, but he should be sentenced in accordance with an understanding of the impact that his oxycodone trafficking has upon the community.”
Stewart agreed with prosecutors that Wilcox was the most indispensable part of the conspiracy due to his medical license. Stewart ordered Wilcox to report to begin his sentence on Aug. 12.
“I’m respectful of the court process,” Wilcox told Fox 13 as he left the courthouse Monday. “I still hold on to my innocence.”
Wilcox said he intends to appeal his conviction to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Outside of the courthouse, Assistant U.S. Attorney Vernon Stejskal told Fox 13 in Salt Lake City that he was satisfied with the sentence Stewart handed down. Stejskal became chief of the Narcotics Section and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Utah, in July 2015.
“I believe the judge imposed a just and appropriate sentence given the conduct of Dr. Wilcox and the amount of opioids that he put in the St. George community and around there,” Stejskal said. “Hopefully, this sends a message to the other medical community that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated.”
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