Dr. Joseph Mwau N’dolo of Fairhope appeared in federal court Monday and was sentenced to two years in prison for three charges of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.
N’dolo pleaded guilty in April and admitted to running a “pill mill” out of his Fairhope office, Premiere Internal Medicine, from 2008 until 2013.
Back in March, the U.S. District Court Southern District of Alabama released an eight-page criminal complaint against N’dolo, alleging he provided numerous patients with prescriptions for controlled substances, including opiates, Soma and benzodiazepines, without proper medical need. The complaint also claimed N’dolo had sex with or exchanged sexual pictures with some of the patients who received prescription drugs.
During the sentencing hearing, N’dolo’s defense attorney John Beck cited the defendant’s cooperation with authorities and asked that N’dolo only be sentenced to probation.
Beck, prior to the hearing, filed 131 pages of documents to include a total of 78 letters written in support of N’dolo, plus additional documentation of his treatment progress for alcohol and sex addiction.
“This is a man who is standing up and doing what a man should do,” Beck told the judge.
N’dolo’s wife Monica took the stand to tell the court that her husband has accepted his mistakes and has taken measures to correct them. She admitted N’dolo was diagnosed with sexual addiction, alcoholism and depression, for which he continues to receive weekly treatment.
“Since his diagnosis and subsequent treatment, I’ve seen changes,” she said.
According to his wife, N’dolo sought psychiatric evaluation in Los Angeles, and underwent intensive treatment there before arranging continued treatment locally.
“Please give Joseph a chance … to be a better doctor and better husband,” she pleaded.
According to court documents, N’dolo has been consistently attending weekly treatment sessions since Aug. 4 and reports he also attended Sex Addicts Anonymous in Mobile as directed. Additionally, N’dolo completed a 12-day intensive outpatient program for sexual addiction.
Martha Amacker, a registered nurse who began seeing N’dolo as a patient in 2011, attested to N’dolo’s medical ability and character. Having been a professional in the medical field for many years, Amacker said she never detected any illegal activity at N’dolo’s office.
“I never saw Dr. N’dolo do anything inappropriate,” she said.
Amacker went on to say that N’dolo is “very knowledgeable” and “people are going to suffer” if he is taken away from his medical practice. Gartrell Agee, another patient of N’dolo, called him “very professional” and “very caring.”
Lamech Change, director at the African Cultural Resource Center in Mobile, submitted a letter on behalf of N’dolo, who apparently immigrated to the U.S. in 1978 and has dual citizenship in both here and in Kenya.
Change, who has known N’dolo for more than 15 years, said N’dolo has sponsored many young people from Kenya, including himself, to study at the University of South Alabama.
“For the last seven years, Dr. N’dolo has been one of our Elders and a role model for our youths who would like to follow his footsteps and become doctors … his character during all this period has been outing and gentlemanly,” he wrote. “On behalf of our community, I plead for lenience (sic) from you based on his contributions to the wellbeing of many people.”
N’dolo made a statement before Chief U.S. District Judge William Steele prior to the final sentencing, again admitting his fault by saying “I made the wrong choices.” N’dolo told Steele that he is now “always and persistently” advising other doctors to learn from his mistakes.
After hearing the statements and reading the letters in support of N’dolo, Steele said he took into consideration the “wealth of information” presented, but also noted N’dolo’s guilty plea and restated that his actions were a serious violation of the law. Essentially, N’dolo was “taking advantage of patients,” Steele said.
“There’s no question that offense was quite serious,” he said.
According to court documents, “N’dolo characterized his patients as addicts, idiots and stupid. Fully aware of the addictions of some of his patients, N’dolo took advantage of them through means such as sexual acts and communications. He led certain drug addicted patients to believe the quality of his medical care would increase if they flirted (with) him.”
The federal investigation also found N’dolo had on occasion shown up to treat patients while under the influence of alcohol. In 2006, N’dolo was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in Baldwin County. In 2004, he was arrested again in Baldwin County and charged with second-degree rape, but those charges were dropped when the victim recanted.
Because he was never convicted of any crimes, Steele said N’dolo has no criminal history points, which also helped in the reduction of his sentence.
According to Steele, the original sentencing guidelines called for 87 to 108 months in prison; however, due to N’dolo’s “substantial” cooperation, a 50 percent reduction to 44 months was considered.
Furthermore, Steele said N’dolo was entitled to an even greater reduction and ultimately sentenced him to 24 months in prison, which he called “sufficient but not more than necessary.”
Steele also recommended N’dolo be placed in a facility where mental health treatment is available.
Additionally, N’dolo will serve three years of supervised release upon his release from prison and must participate in assessment and treatment of mental health, specifically sexual addiction, Steele said.
According to the the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners and Medical Licensure Commission of Alabama’s online database, N’dolo’s medical license is currently listed as “inactive-surrendered” as he voluntarily surrendered his certificate of qualification and license to practice in the State of Alabama.
Though Beck hoped for probation, he called Steele’s decision a “reasonable sentence.”
“I understand what the judge did was well below the guidelines,” he said.