Dearborn doctor sentenced to 4 years in prison for unnecessarily prescribing opioids

A Dearborn doctor who prescribed unneeded opioid pills will spend four years in prison, authorities announced Thursday.

In May, Dr. Tate Oniango, 48, of Oakland, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances after he admitted to prescribing 12,500 dosage units of hydrocodone, which is commonly known by its brand names – Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, and Norco.

"Michigan has been devastated by opioid drug overdoses in the last decade. Dr. Oniango betrayed his oath as a physician and injected poison into our communities for profit.  My office will zealously pursue medical providers who abuse their licenses and inflict harm upon our community," United States Attorney Dawn Ison said.

The allegations that Oniango was unnecessarily prescribing drugs came out in 2017.

He is also accused of trying to flee the country in 2021, while on bond and pretrial release. Oniango took a bus to Mexico, but Mexican border agents apprehended him and returned him to U.S. authorities.

 "As a physician, Dr. Oniango was trusted to prescribe potent narcotics in keeping with laws and regulations designed to prevent the diversion of prescription drugs that fuel the ongoing opioid epidemic. Not only did he break that trust, but he also attempted to flee the consequences of his criminal behavior," said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. "The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate this type of criminal behavior and to ensuring those who operate outside the law face the consequence for that choice."