Doctor’s employees plead guilty to opioid charges

HILO (AP) — Two former employees of a Big Island physician’s office that was raided for illegal distribution of prescription opioid painkillers have pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports the women were employees of Dr. Ernest Bade, whose Hilo office was shut down in October 2018.

The 81-year-old doctor was charged with 40 counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances, but was found incompetent to stand trial due to dementia.

Court records say 55-year-old Yvonne Caitano and 60-year-old Theresa Saltus pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges related to prescription drugs.

Records say Caitano’s 33-year-old daughter Sheena Strong and 81-year-old mother Marie Benevides also pleaded guilty to separate drug counts.

Authorities say the women flew to Maui and collectively obtained more than 10,000 oxycodone pills after pharmacies stopped filling Bade’s prescriptions.