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OB/GYN accused of patient ID theft for drugs

November 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Dr. Lisa Barden is a Southern California mom who appeared to have it all. That is, until she was arrested on 276 felony charges of identity theft, forgery, possession of controlled substances and burglary.She's an obstetrician and an admitted painkiller addict.

Her most shocking crime?

Delivering babies, then stealing the identities of those new mothers to get prescriptions for Vicodin. Surveillance cameras were rolling as she illegally obtained prescription painkillers at pharmacies all across the Coachella Valley.

"It's really hard to stop that, when you're in that cycle. It's horrible. It's all you think about," said Barden.

Life for Barden, an obstetrician and mother of three, was spiraling out of control.

"It just gave me a way to escape. I didn't have to deal with anything," said Barden.

Barden's severe addiction to prescription painkillers ended with an arrest outside a Palm Springs hospital where she's delivered hundreds of babies.

"It definitely saved my life," said Barden. "It was going to take something drastic like that to happen, and thank god it wasn't because I hurt somebody. I thought maybe that way it would come to light or I would kill myself."

"It's fraud. She's lied. She's cheated," said Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Jeanne Roy.

Roy is prosecuting the case and says Barden's admitted addiction is no get-out-of-jail-free card.

"I don't excuse criminal behavior for that," said Roy. "I don't think we'd be having the conversation if she didn't have the doctor attached to her name."

Barden is charged with 276 felonies, including identity theft, forgery, burglary and possession of controlled substances.

Court documents allege that Barden stole the identities of 15 patients. She also allegedly stole prescription pads from five doctors she worked with and then forged their signatures to get the painkillers.

Her drug of choice was Vicodin and its generic counterpart, hydrocodone.

"A really, really vicious cycle, and it's very depressing," Barden said.

Investigators trailed the Riverside County mom for 14 months. In that time, they say Barden used those stolen patient identities and prescriptions to fraudulently obtain Vicodin or hydrocodone at 43 different pharmacies on 131 separate occasions.

In all, investigators say she illegally obtained 30,000 pills.

Barden calls that 30,000 number an exaggeration, but she does admit to downing more than a dozen tablets of Vicodin on a typical day.

Barden delivered Jennifer Herrera's son, Junior, two and a half years ago.

"I do think she was on drugs," said Herrera. "He had a two-and-a-half-inch cut on the side of his right side of his head," said Herrera.

There were complications during the C-section. Junior suffered a superficial cut to his head during the delivery. When Herrera found about Barden's addiction, she began to wonder if her doctor was high during the delivery.

"To have a doctor do that to me and other women, it makes me so mad," said Herrera.

Herrera's son is fine now and that allegation has never been investigated. Barden has been advised by her attorney to not discuss with Eyewitness News whether she was ever under the influence while practicing medicine.

"You're supposed to trust your doctor with your life and your children's lives," said Herrera.

Herrera is one of three Southern California moms who had their babies delivered by Barden only to later learn that she'd also stolen their identities to get Vicodin.

La Quinta resident Reichel Ainsworth had her identity stolen after giving birth at Desert Regional Medical Center where Barden delivered babies.

U.S. Department of Justice documents say Ainsworth's name was used on a prescription pad stolen by Barden from a doctor with whom she once performed an emergency C-section.

"It's amazing that somebody, let alone a doctor, would do something like that. It's very sad," said Ainsworth.

Barden might still be at work if it hadn't been for one very alert employee at a Rite-Aid drug store in Desert Hot Springs.

"It was Tina, my friend, that cracked this whole case," said Betty Enright.

Pharmacy technician Tina Gonzalez spotted a prescription for Vicodin dropped off by Barden under the name of Betty Enright.

Unfortunately for Barden, Tina knows Betty and raised a red flag.

"I maybe take an aspirin once in a blue moon," said Enright.

Barden was arrested in January.

She's since gone through detox and says her newfound sobriety has changed everything about her life and being a mom.

"This is where I'm going to get upset, because before I didn't know her, and now I do," Barden said about her older daughter.

"I hope she stays like this, and I hope she doesn't get sick or hurt anymore," said Barden's younger daughter, Delaney.

Prison time is a real possibility, but it's one Barden says she's ready to face.

"To me, it's a small price to pay. One for not hurting somebody, and two for getting them back," said Barden.

Barden is now eight months clean and sober. She blames part of her addiction on stress from a previous marriage she describes as abusive.

She has agreed to plead guilty to the narcotics-related charges against her. Barden says she would like to practice medicine again some day but says she would look for a job that would not require her to write prescriptions for narcotics.


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