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Woman sentenced in opioid prescription-for-sex conspiracy case
Rhonda Haugland
Rhonda Haugland

A woman accused of exchanging a sexual relationship with a doctor for prescription pills was sentenced last week in federal court.

Rhonda Haugland was sentenced to 57 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and alprazolam. According to the terms of her sentence, she will receive residential drug treatment while incarcerated.

When contacted for comment, Haugland’s attorney Sarah Timmers deferred to the court record.

In a sentencing memorandum filed Oct. 12, Timmers and Haugland told the court Haugland developed a “pill popping habit” roughly five years ago.

“She is one of many Americans caught up in the current and widespread opioid crises,” according to the memorandum.

Joseph Burton, 73, Haugland and six others were indicted on conspiracy charges in February. Prosecutors say Burton, who had a medical expert consulting business but didn’t see patients, wrote more than 1,500 prescriptions from July 2015 to August 2017 without a legitimate medical purpose.

Burton, a former medical examiner, was sentenced to serve eight years in prison.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Haugland and two other women “engaged in a sexual relationship with Dr. Burton in exchange for prescriptions in their names, as well as the names of others.”

“(Haugland and two others) would fill their prescriptions and sell the pills, and then obtain more prescriptions from Burton for other people, who paid them for getting the prescriptions. Dr. Burton also supplied the co-defendants with blank prescriptions and instructed them on how to fill them out,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Timmers wrote Haugland’s “late-in-life criminal history, particularly starting in 2014,” her diagnosis of severe opioid use disorder and her conviction in the case were “all said examples of an individual caught in the wrath of an opioid addiction.”

Following her prison time, Haugland will be on supervised release for three years.

Once Burton knew the Drug Enforcement Administration was investigating him, he tried to falsify records, prosecutors said.

Burton pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to illegally distribute drugs. Prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross for a 14-year sentence, while Burton’s attorney asked for less than four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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