PHOENIX (AP) -- A plastic surgeon who admitted stealing medicinal cocaine from a Scottsdale surgery center was sentenced Monday to three years of probation for his theft and drug convictions.
Dr. Paul Kenneth Holden stole five vials of the drug in the middle of the night July 10 from a surgery center that shares a building with his medical office, authorities said. A woman who was cleaning the surgery center spotted Holden during the crime, police said. He was clad in a white lab coat and was hiding behind shelves next to the surgery center's pharmacy.
Holden, 42, pleaded guilty three weeks ago to a misdemeanor theft charge and a felony drug-paraphernalia possession charge. Holden can ask the court after completing any probation sentence to downgrade his felony conviction to a misdemeanor conviction.
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.
The judge pointed out that Holden had no prior criminal history and has been undergoing substance abuse counseling.
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said Holden once had authorized access to the surgery center, where he performed surgeries, but that access was withdrawn for an unspecified incident in 2012. He later tried unsuccessfully to get his access card reinstated.
Holden was believed to have sneaked into the surgical center through a break room with a security code that hadn't been changed since he had access to the office.
The woman who was cleaning the surgery center ran away screaming when she saw Holden, and he stopped her and said nothing abnormal was going on.
Holden then went into the pharmacy unescorted, shut the door behind him and emerged three minutes later with coat pockets that looked like they were filled with bulky items, according to police.
The cleaning worker later identified Holden in a photo lineup.
Holden later called a manager at the surgical business to repeatedly apologize and see what he could do to resolve the issue. He also inquired about the strength of the case against him, police said.
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 Arizona, 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 its deputy director, Pat McSorley. He declined to reveal the allegations being examined. Possible punishments from such investigations include letters of reprimand, censures, probation and loss of licenses.
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