Updated Apr 7, 2014 - 9:31 am
Suburban Phoenix doctor sentenced to probation in medicinal cocaine theft
PHOENIX -- A plastic surgeon who admitted stealing medicinal cocaine from a surgery center in Scottsdale was sentenced Monday to three years of probation.
Dr. Paul Kenneth Holden had been convicted on theft and drug charges.
Authotrities said Holden stole five vials of the drug in the middle of the night July 10 from a surgery center that shares the same building as his medical office, authorities said. A woman who was cleaning the surgery center spotted Holden, clad in a white lab coat, during the crime hiding behind shelves next to the center's pharmacy, police said.
Holden, 42, pleaded guilty three weeks ago in Maricopa County Superior Court to a misdemeanor theft charge and a felony drug-paraphernalia possession charge. He faces punishments ranging from probation up to two years in prison.
He faced up to two years in prison, but Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Pamela Svoboda followed the recommendation in Holden's plea agreement that he be sentenced to probation.
Medicinal cocaine is used in procedures performed on the nose and is a purer form of the drug than what's sold on the streets. When used in medical procedures, it serves as a decongestant and anesthetic and helps reduce bleeding and shrink tissue.
Investigators said Holden once had authorized access to the surgery center, where he performed surgeries, but that access was withdrawn for an unspecified incident in 2012 and that he later tried unsuccessfully to get his access card reinstated.
He was believed to have sneaked into the surgical center through a break room whose security-access code hadn't been changed since Holden had access to the office.
The woman who was cleaning the surgery center ran away screaming when she saw Holden, who stopped her and said nothing abnormal was going on.
Holden then went into the pharmacy, shut the door behind him and emerged three minutes later with coat pockets that looked like they were filled with bulky items.
People who worked at the building recognized Holden from video-surveillance footage taken around the time of the crime. The cleaning worker later identified Holden in a photo line-up.
Holden later called a manager at the surgical business to repeatedly apologize, see what he could do to resolve the issue and inquired about the strength of the case against him, police said.
Flynn Carey, an attorney for Holden, didn't return a call seeking comment on Friday.
Holden was given permission by a judge 10 days after the theft to travel to California to participate in an in-patient treatment program.
Holden still has a license to practice in the state, and no disciplinary action has been taken against him by the Arizona Medical Board, which licenses doctors in the state.
But the board has opened an investigation against Holden, said Pat McSorley, the medical board's deputy director, declining to reveal the allegations being examined. Possible punishments from such investigations include letters of reprimand, censures, probation and loss of licenses.