U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon also sentenced Bruce to three years of supervised release after prison. He must surrender to prison authorities on Jan. 16.
Bruce, 49, broke down in court at his sentencing as he apologized to Gordon and sought leniency so he could make amends for his misdeeds.
“I’m so ashamed and disappointed in myself,” he said. “I could have just said no and I would not be here.”
Bruce, who attributed his actions to “stupidity,” promised to be a “shining light” in the community and never return to Gordon’s courtroom after he gets out of prison.
Defense lawyer Richard Schonfeld — who packed the courtroom with friends, relatives and patients of Bruce — said his client’s role in the drug scheme was out of character for a man who rose from modest upbringings in Ghana to fulfill the American Dream as a physician in the United States.
Assistant U.S. attorneys Cristina Silva and Crane Pomerantz and Schonfeld all had agreed that 46 months behind bars was an appropriate sentence.
Gordon said he recognized that Bruce had done good work for a lot of people, but he added the doctor had to pay the consequences for his bad deeds.
“Oxycodone is a powerful drug and you know this,” Gordon said. “It’s a dangerous, dangerous drug.”
Gordon called Bruce’s case a “tragedy” but said he was confident Bruce would become a prominent member of the community again after he gets out of prison.
Afterward, Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden hailed the sentence.
“Dr. Bruce repeatedly wrote prescriptions for highly addictive controlled substances for patients who did not need them and for patients who did not appear at his medical practice or did not exist,” Bogden said in a statement. “We continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to put illegal pill-pusher doctors like Dr. Bruce in prison and out of business.”
Two other doctors who prescribed large amounts of oxycodone and a pharmacy alleged to have filled phony prescriptions are among the targets in the drug trafficking investigation, court documents show.
In June, Bogden told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that four doctors were under investigation for prescription crimes in the Las Vegas area.
Bruce’s indictment was part of an investigation into alleged oxycodone trafficking by Robert Wolfe, known on the street by the nickname “old man.”
Bruce admitted that he illegally gave Wolfe oxycodone prescriptions.
Wolfe has been cooperating with federal authorities and Las Vegas police, who are investigating his lawyer, Ben Nadig, in an alleged scheme to help Wolfe flee the country.
Bruce’s guilty plea follows the sentencing of one of his employees, Jade Lepoma, who was given three years’ probation with one year of home confinement.
Lepoma pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and agreed to cooperate against Bruce.
In her agreement with prosecutors, Lepoma admitted to helping Wolfe obtain oxycodone prescriptions from Bruce so Wolfe could sell the drugs at a profit on the street.
Lepoma said she and other Bruce staffers shared in roughly $1,200 a week from Wolfe outside their regular salaries for their assistance.
Federal prosecutors have alleged that Bruce created “ghost files” of patients, prescribed oxycodone under the phony names and sold the prescriptions to Wolfe.
In a new federal case made public Thursday, Henderson Dr. Mahesh Kuthuru, 46, pleaded not guilty to nine federal counts of unlawfully distributing prescription painkillers, including oxycodone. Kuthuru operates Desert Pain Management.
It was unclear if Kuthuru’s case was related to the others.
Contact Jeff German at [email protected] or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.