A former doctor with a felony record for multiple acts of identity theft and forgery stemming from an addiction to painkillers was sentenced today to five years behind bars for violating her probation and attempting to fraudulently obtain prescription drugs.
Lisa Michele Barden, 43, pleaded guilty July 10 to identity theft, falsifying a prescription, forgery, misdemeanor check fraud and making false representations about her professional status in connection with a May 19 incident at the Main Street Pharmacy at 823 Main St. in Corona, where she was living at the time.
According to Corona police, Barden used another physician's information to acquire pills, but pharmacy staff recognized her and called 911 after she left the location.
The one-time Coachella Valley-area gynecologist initially pleaded not guilty to the allegations but switched her plea during a status hearing before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez. The District Attorney's Office was not a party to the action.
According to District Attorney's Office spokesman John Hall, the defendant could have received up to seven years and eight months behind bars. Prosecutors sought the maximum term, based on a suspended sentence Barden received after pleading guilty in December 2010 to 272 felony counts, including forging prescriptions, illegally possessing controlled substances, identity theft and burglary.
In exchange for her plea, Barden was sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation and was ordered to complete 1,000 hours of community service and attend a drug rehabilitation program.
Her license to practice medicine was revoked by the state medical board last April.
In January 2009, Barden was arrested following a yearlong investigation by the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and the Riverside Regional Pharmaceutical Narcotic Enforcement Team.
According to investigators, who followed her between February 2007 and December 2008, Barden illegally acquired more than 30,000 pills, primarily hydrocodone and oxycodone, drugs most often used to contain pain, but which also induce euphoria and reduce anxiety.
Barden, also known as Lisa Degner, worked at several Palm Springs medical clinics. She visited 43 pharmacies on 131 occasions to get drugs, according to investigators.
Prosecutors said Barden stole 15 patients' identities and faked several doctors' signatures to obtain the medications.