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Painkiller-dealing Wash. doctor known as 'Candy Man' sentenced, ordered to pay $1.2 million


Dr. Antoine Johnson claimed in 2009 that he was targeted for prosecution because he was a 'young, successful black man.'

After a manhunt that took federal agents to Madagascar, a Seattle-area doctor known as "the Candy Man" for indiscriminantly writing painkiller prescriptions for hundreds of patients was sentenced to 12 years in prison Thursday and ordered to pay more than $1.2 million in restitution.

Antoine Johnson was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Wash., south of Seattle, for health care fraud, drug distribution and tax evasion. His mother, Lawanda Johnson, who was his office manager at four western Washington clinics, was sentenced to seven years in prison.

M. Alex Johnson

M. Alex Johnson is a reporter for msnbc.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

The FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services said Johnson wrote prescriptions for powerful painkillers for hundreds of patients without conducting thorough medical examinations.

Agents raided Johnson's clinics and home in January 2009 after a two-year investigation. Johnson, then 38, fled to the island of Madagascar off the southeastern coast of Africa, but he was detained eight months later because his passport had expired and then turned over to U.S. custody.

Before the raids, two undercover FBI agents visited Johnson's offices posing as patients several times, according to affidavits in the case. Even though they didn't always see Johnson himself and and often weren't given medical exams, the agents walked away with prescriptions for powerful narcotic painkillers and other controlled drugs.

On one occasion, one of the agents arrived to find about 40 people in the waiting room and 50 to 60 others waiting in line outside. The agent said he overheard a woman talking on a cellphone report that Johnson hadn't yet arrived but that "as soon as he gets here, I will get it and I'll call you and we'll hook up. I got a hold of my people."

The agent also said he overheard some patients refer to Johnson as "the script doc" and others demanding "just give me my scripts so I can go."

A subsequent audit of Johnson's accounts revealed double-billing of Medicare, "upcoding" of diagnoses to allow him to charge Medicare higher rates and notations indicating that as many as two-thirds of the patients under review were being prescribed opioids, with many of them on multiple drugs, according to court records.

The day after the raids in 2009, Johnson told a very different story, however, alleging in an interview with NBC station KING of Seattle that he was the victim of racial profiling.

"Look at me. I'm black. I believe they're doing this because I'm a young, successful black man," he said at the time.

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