A New Jersey doctor was indicted for distribution of opioids without a medical reason and sentenced by U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark Federal Court. The doctor, belonging to Bergen County, was caught with falsified medical documents to cover up the opioid distribution scheme, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpentino. Robert Delagente of Oakland, New Jersey, thereby pleaded guilty on one count of fraudulent medical records, three counts of participating in the distribution of dangerous substances and conspiracy to distribute said substances.
According to the investigation, the defendant had been prescribing his patients some of the most addictive and dangerous opioids, without looking into the reasons for the prescription. The documents revealed that the drugs were deemed medically unnecessary for the patients they were prescribed to, and would often be distributed with just a text message from addicted patients. The U.S. Attorney Craig Carpentino also alleged that the patients who would be given the drugs were already heavily addicted and were dealing with deep pain and varying levels of addiction, and rather than helping them with a controlled plan for their well-being, the doctor would easily supply them with opioids and other heavy and dangerous substances to deepen their addiction and drug abuse habits.
The doctor admitted his guilt and participation in the charges listed above, and with his admission of guilt, the U.S. Attorney was able to dole out the appropriate punishment for this dangerous behavior. The patients that dealt with Delagente were also looked into, and placed into the care of different medical institutions that would manage their addictions and drug abuse habits in a healthy and safe manner.
The law enforcement agencies involved in unfurling this case included FBI-Newark’s Special Agent in Charge, Gregory W. Ehrie, who commented on Dr. Delagente’s lack of moral compass in selling the drugs to vulnerable members of society. He said that while there is no magic spell to alleviate the pain that would be caused to the patients, it is the right thing to do to not give them an open supply to drugs that are harming them further, rather than helping them become healthier and functioning members of society. Ehrie also reiterated how important public awareness is, with regards to pill mills, and encouraged victims of such fraudulent schemes and dirty doctors to come forward, rather than deepen their history of abuse.
As per the evidence reviewed in the investigation, Delagente had a medical practice out of which he operated, called North Jersey Family Medicine, in Oakland, New Jersey. It was alleged that Delagente would often refer to himself as the Candy Man, and the El Chapo of Opioids, in conversation, relating to his practice of prescribing painkillers to addicts. The investigation clearly stated that Delagente knowingly distributed the controlled substances to those already suffering at the hands of drug abuse. This included drugs such as Percocet, Oxycodone, Tylenol, Codeine, Benzodiazepines, alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam and temazepam. He distributed these without holding a legitimate medical reason, and outside of the course of professional behaviour expected of doctors.
It was reiterated during the investigation that Delagente ignored all risks involved in the abuse of the above drugs among his vulnerable patients, and most of all did not hold himself responsible for the medical risk of overdose, abuse and death that often be hand in hand with the addictive substances mentioned above. There would be no guarantee, when Delagente prescribed these medically unnecessary drugs, that the patients and individuals who purchased them would use them responsibly, or would not mix them with each other for a heightened effect. Delagente did not take into account the countless lives he would ruin if one of these individuals were to overdose from the drugs that he had distributed to these vulnerable people.
It was noted that Delagente would often prescribe the controlled substances without asking or looking too much into the reason they were being asked for, and would even forego discussing the medical matter for which the drug was needed with the patients. Individuals would often just need to send Delagente a text message in order to receive the drugs, or he would leave a prescription for the aforementioned drugs at his practice’s front desk, without feeling the need to consult the individuals at all.
Delagente would also fail to acknowledge his lack of care and not monitor his patients for signs of opioid addiction, would ignore the prescribed drug screenings for patients before prescribing the drugs, and would, for all intents and purposes, freely give away drugs with no regard for their effect on the buyers. These buyers would often quote their own dosage, numbers and strength of the drug, and Delagente would actually instruct them about how to mix the drugs to create a dangerous combination that he described as the Holy Trinity.
Some of the harrowing details of the investigation revealed that Delagente was callous in the face of patients wishing to get healthy again, and for those who were looking for ways to stop taking pain killers, Delagente would not exert any effort in helping them formulate a plan to get off the drug. Some of the instances reveal that Delagente would leave prescriptions for Opioids on his office’s front desk, and ailing patients would pick them up at their disposal. The buyers having trouble obtaining pain killers would often get word-of-mouth information about Delagente and his callousness in distributing the drugs, thereby making him popular among drug addicts. He faces a 20-year imprisonment sentence along with a $1 million fine for the prescriptions and distribution of each drug, while also being fined $250,000 for falsifying documentation and medical records.
This case is one of many where a healthcare fraud scheme was unfurled to reveal harrowing details of callousness and disregard for patients. If you or anyone you know require legal assistance in a case of healthcare fraud, please contact the Healthcare Fraud Group on 888-402-4054 for a free consultation.