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DOCTOR SKIPS HEARING - AND MAYBE U.S.

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Dr. Abdiel Rivera-Velez not only skipped his sentencing in federal court Wednesday, he may have skipped the country as well.

Early efforts to find the Layton physician suggest he left the United States, said deputy U.S. marshal Rick Lovelace.U.S. District Judge David Winder issued a warrant for Rivera-Velez's arrest after he failed to show up for sentencing Wednesday morning.

Rivera-Velez, 41, is accused of issuing false prescriptions and prescribing drugs to known addicts. He was charged with 30 counts of unlawful distribution of drugs.

The charges accused him of selling prescriptions for painkillers and sedatives to eight people.

He agreed last summer to have his medical and drug licenses revoked in the wake of the charges.

Rivera-Velez's former boss, Dr. Robert C. Davis, was convicted of Medicaid fraud and mail fraud last year and is serving a 56-month sentence in a federal penitentiary.

Rivera-Velez faces between 63 months and 78 months in prison after pleading guilty to five of the drug counts. The other 25 charges were dropped.

The thought of prison has troubled Rivera-Velez. He attempted to withdraw his guilty plea in October after he realized that he was facing prison. However, Winder denied the request, noting that the doctor clearly understood the consequences of his plea.

Rivera-Velez had been free on a $25,000 bond. He was banned from traveling outside Utah without the judge's permission and was required to report twice weekly to the federal pretrial authorities.

He hasn't checked in with authorities since Nov. 18.

If marshals catch up to Rivera-Velez, he will likely be charged with another crime: failure to appear.

"That charge can add up to five years onto whatever sentence he gets on the previous charges," Lovelace said.

Under his agreement with the state, Rivera-Velez can't reapply for his license until he has been out of prison for two years.

His license was briefly revoked in January 1992 after state officials learned he had concealed the fact that Puerto Rico had already revoked his medical license.