Christopher Lister was caught in a sting by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The 51-year-old father of two from Apple Valley has been a physician's assistant since 1998. The day the undercover video was recorded, Lister said he was getting out of the "prescriptions for cash" business.
Lister certainly has some medical and economics expertise. In part of the DEA video, obtained exclusively by Eyewitness News, Lister expounds on the theory of supply and demand.
"I don't know who's gonna be writing them, but once I stop, there's gonna be a shortage, so prices will probably go through the roof," Lister said.
By law, a licensed physician's assistant can examine patients and write prescriptions, but must be "directed by a supervising physician." Lister was not.
In the video, Lister spends seven straight minutes, writing prescriptions for OxyContin and other controlled substances. He took orders, at times, like a short order cook.
The other man on the video is a former patient of Lister's, turned street-level drug dealer, turned confidential source for the DEA.
Lister and two of his former patients-turned-drug dealers all pleaded guilty to "conspiracy to distribute oxycodone," a widely abused narcotic similar to heroin.
"He's a drug dealer. That's exactly what he is, he's a drug dealer," said federal prosecutor Robert Brown, who prosecuted Lister's case. "He was selling his access to oxycodone. He wasn't engaging in a medical examination and prescribing this as a means of treating someone's pain. He was basically renting out his name to allow people to get oxycodone."
We caught up with Lister outside court before and after he was sentenced.
"I'm definitely going to have plenty to say, but not at the moment," said Lister.
But Lister apparently had a change of heart. Since then, he has not returned our phone calls.
Eyewitness News has learned this is not Lister's first run-in with the law. In 2005, he crashed his car while drunk and pled guilty to DUI. In 2007, he was arrested for alleged spousal abuse, but pled guilty to disturbing the peace.
In 2008, the state revoked Lister's license as a physician's assistant for "gross negligence," but then stayed the order instead, giving Lister probation. It was then revoked again by the state in 2010.
In 2003, Lister was arrested for Medi-Cal fraud. Prosecutors said he was writing prescriptions for a human growth hormone, fraudulently billing Medi-Cal, filling the prescriptions himself and then selling the drugs on the street. Lister got a plea deal on that 2003 Medi-Cal fraud case and got probation instead of prison time.
This time, there was no deal. Brown said a judge sentenced Lister to 14 years in federal prison. That undercover video didn't hurt the case.
"It's one thing to describe a criminal act, it's another to see it," said Brown. "He certainly seemed to find an easy way to make money, easy for him at least."
Even though Lister pleaded guilty, he's now appealing the length of that 14-year prison sentence. Lister has been ordered to surrender to prison by Monday.