International Fugitive Doctor Convicted of Fentanyl Drug Trafficking Loses Medical Licence

International Fugitive Doctor Convicted of Fentanyl Drug Trafficking Loses Medical Licence
A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chemist checks confiscated powder containing fentanyl at the DEA Northeast Regional Laboratory in New York on Oct. 8, 2019. (Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)
Marnie Cathcart
Toronto doctor George Otto’s medical licence was revoked by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) on Jan. 11, 2023, more than three years after he was convicted as a drug dealer in a fentanyl trafficking scheme.
Otto, originally from Uganda, was 61 when the Ontario Superior Court of Justice sentenced him to 12 years in prison in November 2019. He appealed his conviction, arguing that the sentence was excessive. Then, after serving just 13 days of his term, he was granted bail and released, reported Toronto Life in a May 2021 article.

The article said his brother Francis put up bail of $100,000 and agreed to act as his surety. Subsequently, due to the pandemic, the court granted him an extension and ordered him to surrender himself in November 2020.

That same month, his wife called police and reported him missing, and later another brother, Geoffrey, based in Thunder Bay, Ontario, told police he had reason to believe Otto had fled Canada and was on his way to Uganda.

Otto left behind his wife, Jacqueline, and their four children, three of whom lived at home at the time, and the two youngest were in elementary school, according to the 2019 court document.

Having disappeared, the disgraced doctor did not take part in the proceedings before the CPSO’s discipline tribunal , which stated in its findings that, “for his own profit, he [Otto] wrote unnecessary prescriptions for fentanyl that was later sold to users.”

Otto was found to have “committed professional misconduct by being found guilty of an offence relevant to his suitability to practise medicine, fentanyl trafficking, and by engaging in disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional conduct through breaching his bail conditions.”

The tribunal did not issue an official reprimand to Otto, as he had already absconded from his sentence.

“To include a reprimand, there should be a good reason to believe that a reprimand would be helpful in regulating physician conduct in the public interest. There is no such reason here,” said the tribunal.


In sentencing Otto in 2019, Justice J. Di Luca said evidence heard at trial indicated the doctor, in financial trouble, had joined forces with pharmacist Shereen El-Azarak, along with an addict who was also a drug trafficker, and one other drug dealer, to carry out the trafficking scheme.

Over about five-and-a-half months in 2015 and early 2016, he prescribed about 4,000 patches of fentanyl without a medical need. The patients were paid to fill the prescriptions at a pharmacy owned by another participant in the scheme. The patients then handed on the drugs, which eventually made their way to end users. Otto could expect to receive $1,500 per prescription.

“This offence was motivated by greed,” wrote Justice Di Luca.

He wrote that Otto lived in “what might objectively be described as a small mansion,” with a significant mortgage. The doctor also had a large debt with the Canada Revenue Agency and was facing a practice suspension by the college due to previous discipline findings.

Despite being notified of the disciplinary hearing, Otto did not participate. As such, the tribunal held the hearing in writing, and the college presented its evidence by affidavit.

The tribunal noted that narcotics are highly addictive and can be misused. Thus, “The public relies on physicians to be gatekeepers so that those who need them can get them without improperly placing others at risk. By opening the gates wide to illegal sale of opioids, for his own financial gain, Dr. Otto betrayed the public’s confidence in him and in all physicians.”

It added: “There is no evidence of steps Dr. Otto has taken to address his misconduct or personal circumstances that might explain it. Rather than trying to address what he did, Dr. Otto has disappeared.”

The May 2021 article in Toronto Life called Otto an “international fugitive” believed to have fled to Kitgum, Uganda, or possibly another location in Africa, and may again be practising medicine.