Santa Clara County Doctor Charged With Trading Drugs For Cash

Dr. Marvin Bonham was charged with 18 felonies.

By Lisa Fernandez
|  Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012  |  Updated 7:58 PM PDT
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A well-known South Bay doctor is under arrest for trading drugs for cash. Marianne Favro reports.

A well-known South Bay doctor is under arrest for trading drugs for cash. Marianne Favro reports.

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Prosecutors on Wednesday announced they charged a top administrator of Santa Clara County’s health plan  with 18 felonies this week - the doctor is accused of trading prescriptions for powerful drugs – including Oxycontin - in return for cash and methamphetamine.

Dr. Marvin Bonham, the medical director of the Valley Health Plan, Health and Hospital System of Santa Clara County, allegedly wrote more than half of his prescriptions for county residents who had criminal drug histories; offered to give minors methamphetamine; and gave them marijuana, prosecutors said.

Bonham could not be reached for immediate comment, and is out of custody on $1 million bail. Joy Alexiou, spokeswoman for Valley Medical Center, declined comment, referring calls to the Santa Clara County public affairs office. Spokeswoman Laurel Anderson declined all comment, other than to say Bonham was employed there for nearly five years and his last day was Oct. 10. She refused to say whether he had been fired, resigned or if he was on paid leave.

When authorities searched Bonham's hillside estate in Los Gatos, they found  weapons, sales quantities of methamphetamine, marijuana, and ecstasy, as well as a marijuana grow room in the crawl space underneath his estate, prosecutors said. Large quantities of drying marijuana was found hanging in the garage and the home was littered with burnt foil and hollowed pens that appeared to have been used to smoke drugs, prosecutors said.

The case broke when agents followed up on a number of unusual drug-related police reports revolving around Bonham, his vehicle, storage facility, and home, prosecutors said. Those reports showed that Bonham, a pediatrician whose position at Valley Health Plan was purely administrative, allegedly wrote a substantial number of prescriptions for major drugs of abuse to 29 different adults in less than two years. More than half of these people had criminal histories, with ten having records of arrests for drug use and sales.

Supervising Deputy District Attorney James Sibley said, “Doctors are supposed to care for the health of their patients, not to recklessly give them access to powerful, addictive drugs.”

Bonham, 61, is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday. He's facing charges of possession of methamphetamine for sale, prescribing without legitimate medical purpose, prescribing to addicts, possession of psilocybin mushrooms, possession of ecstasy and possession of marijuana for sale. 

If convicted,  Bonham faces up to 25 years in prison.

The case against Bonham is the result of a multi-agency probe, spearheaded by the Attorney General’s Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team, entitled “Operation Oxy Exchange.”

Also charged with three drug-related felonies was Bonham’s roommate James Schneider, 32.

Schneider was arrested at the home when police arrived to search the house because he had a warrant out for his arrest for driving with a suspended license, according to the DA. Officers said Schneider tried to run from police but they caught him and later released him.

Late Wednesday authorities said there is a new warrant out for his arrest regarding drug charges related to Bonhma's arrest.

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