WEST PALM BEACH — Sobbing and asking for forgiveness, a Jupiter doctor told a federal judge Friday that she didn't mean to cause any harm when she wrote hundreds of thousands of prescriptions for powerful narcotics to people who were simply drug addicts.
"I'm extremely sorry for any harm I've done during my employment at the clinic," Dr. Christine Chico told U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra.
With her attorney acknowledging that Chico's conduct was "inexcusable," Marra sentenced the 59-year-old to five years in prison for her role in the massive illicit prescription drug network masterminded by Wellington twins Jeff and Chris George.
Her sentence is six months less than the one Marra handed Dr. Vernon Atreidis earlier this month. Chico's attorney Marc Nurik argued that she doled out far fewer oxycodone pills - about 370,0000 - compared with the more than 960,000 Atreidis dispensed.
Further, Nurik said, Chico took the job only because chronic fatigue syndrome wiped out her career as an anesthesiologist. Once she left the pill mill that was masquerading as a pain clinic in October 2009, she became medical director for a Tequesta diagnostic clinic.
Like most of the 33 people who were indicted in August, Chico and Atreidis have cooperated with investigators. They are expected to testify in the trials of the five people who are fighting the charges. Depending on their testimony, they may be able to ask that their sentences be reduced.
Chris Hutson, 31, of Wellington, also was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison for his role in the scheme that is blamed for more than 50 deaths. Atreidis and Chico are the first doctors to be sentenced. Three of the 13 doctors who were charged are fighting the charges. One is charged with first-degree murder. Two others died after they were indicted.