A former doctor with a laundry list of convictions for identity theft and forgery connected to a years-long addiction to painkillers pleaded guilty Tuesday to committing the same type of crime again.
Lisa Michele Barden, 43, was arrested May 19 in Corona after she presented a fake prescription for opiates at the Main Street Pharmacy at 823 Main St. She used another physician's information to acquire the pills, but pharmacy staff recognized her and contacted police after she left the location.
The one-time Coachella Valley-area gynecologist was charged with identity theft, falsifying a prescription, forgery, misdemeanor check fraud and making false representations about her professional status.
During a hearing today before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez, Barden withdrew her not guilty plea and pleaded guilty to all charges. The District Attorney's Office was not a party to the action.
Hernandez referred the case to the Department of Probation for a pre-sentencing report that will include a recommended punishment. The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for Aug. 24. Barden remains held in lieu of $10,000 bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
According to District Attorney's Office spokesman John Hall, the defendant could face up to 7 years, 8 months behind bars, which is what prosecutors will seek based on a suspended sentence Barden received after being convicted in December 2010 of 272 felony counts -- to which she pleaded guilty -- including forging prescriptions, illegally possessing controlled substances, identity theft and burglary.
In exchange for her plea, Barden was sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation and was ordered to complete 1,000 hours of community service and attend a drug rehabilitation program.
The defendant's license was suspended for three years. However, it was permanently revoked by the state medical board last April.
In January 2009, Barden was arrested following a yearlong investigation
by the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and
the Riverside Regional Pharmaceutical Narcotic Enforcement Team.
According to investigators, who followed her between February 2007 and December 2008, Barden illegally acquired more than 30,000 pills, primarily hydrocodone and oxycodone, drugs most often used to contain pain, but which also induce euphoria and reduce anxiety.
Barden, also known as Lisa Degner, worked at several Palm Springs medical clinics. She visited 43 pharmacies on 131 occasions to get drugs, according to investigators.
Prosecutors said Barden stole 15 patients' identities and faked several doctors' signatures to obtain the medications.