New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Seeks to Revoke 12 Doctors' Ability to Prescribe Controlled Painkillers
NEWARK – Advancing New Jersey's fight against the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman today announced that Consumer Affairs Director Eric T. Kanefsky has filed actions seeking to strip 12 New Jersey doctors of their ability to prescribe Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS), including highly addictive painkillers.
All but one of the 12 doctors were convicted in Federal or State courts, for criminal offenses related to their illegal prescribing of controlled substances. The remaining doctor's license was revoked by the State Board of Medical Examiners, due to a civil complaint in which the Attorney General alleged he indiscriminately prescribed CDS. Director Kanefsky's action follows those criminal and civil matters, and seeks to permanently revoke each doctor's CDS registration.
With the eight most recent consent settlements and one judgment announced today, the State will obtain $816,313 in civil penalties, consumer restitution and reimbursement of its attorneys' fees and investigative costs.
"Revocation of a doctor's CDS registration, when a doctor has already been criminally convicted or lost his or her license, creates an additional barrier that will protect the public, should any of these doctors seek to have their medical license restored," Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. "We are engaged in an all-out effort to stem an epidemic in which opiate pain pills are a primary gateway drug. As part of this fight, we are protecting the public from doctors convicted of being part of the problem, or who lost their license due to findings that they were part of the problem."
Physicians obtain their medical licenses through the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners. But no licensed physician may prescribe Controlled Dangerous Substances – including highly addictive painkillers such as Oxycodone – without a CDS registration, which is granted by the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Revocation of a physician's CDS registration provides an extra layer of protection to the public, should the revoked doctor ask the Board of Medical Examiners for a reinstatement of his or her medical license. Even if the Board restores the doctor's license to practice medicine, these individuals would still need to apply to the Consumer Affairs Director for reinstatement of his or her CDS registration. The doctor would be required to make a clear and detailed demonstration as to why restoration of his or her CDS registration would be in the public interest.
"When a doctor is found to have abused the privilege to prescribe CDS by making drugs available to abusers or dealers, our default position should be that the doctor will never again be able to prescribe these medications," Director Kanefsky said. "Doctors who have been convicted of behaving like street drug dealers, or who lost their licenses due to similar findings, will need to apply not just to the Board of Medical Examiners, but also to the Director of Consumer Affairs, if they want to practice again. They will need to demonstrate that they can be trusted with the responsibility they once abdicated."
Director Kanefsky added, "Working hand in hand with the Board of Medical Examiners, we will continue to use all enforcement tools in our arsenal against those who choose to use a professional license to harm the public.
In the cases of the following 12 doctors, Director Kanefsky issued Orders to Show Cause why their CDS registration should not be revoked. The Orders set forth hearing dates within approximately 45 days. They require each doctor to provide a written rationale in advance of the hearing, as to why their CDS registration should not be revoked. Failure to respond may result in the matter being considered in the doctor's absence. Following the hearing, the Director may issue an order suspending or revoking the doctor's New Jersey CDS registration.
Eugene Demczuk, who practiced in Union and in Brooklyn, New York. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in April 2012. He pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, to conspiring to distribute CDS and possess with intent to distribute CDS. According to information included in the Order to Show Cause, the arrest followed an undercover investigation in which, on multiple occasions, Demczuk prescribed oxycodone to an undercover FBI agent. The Order notes that Demczuk accepted $150 per prescription without performing any medical examination or requesting any medical information from the patient; and that he provided additional prescriptions to the undercover agent in the names of other individuals.
Michael Durante, who practiced in Nutley. The Board of Medical Examiners in May 2011 obtained Durante's agreement to cease and desist the practice of medicine pending the resolution of federal criminal proceedings. In June 2013 he was found guilty in federal court of criminal conspiracy to distribute, and unlawful distribution of, oxycodone. According to evidence presented during the Fderal trial, Durante regularly sold oxycodone prescriptions to individuals who resold the drugs on the street for a profit. According to allegations in the Federal criminal complaint, he accepted cash and other items, including "gold" Fraternal Order of Police cards, in exchange for prescriptions.
Philip Eatough, who practiced in Monmouth County. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in April 2012, having temporarily suspended his license in January 2008. Eatough pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute CDS, and to conspiring to launder the proceeds of illegal drug transactions. He was sentenced to 41 months imprisonment and incarcerated until June, 2011.
William Kropinicki, who practiced in Lawrence. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in September 2008. He pleaded guilty in New Jersey Superior Court in October 2012 to multiple counts of illegal prescribing of CDS, including conspiracy and distribution of oxycodone. He was sentenced to seven years in state prison. According to information included in the Order to Show Cause, Kropinicki accepted $100 payments for multiple prescriptions of Percocet which he issued in at least eight different patient names. The Order also noted that he created fraudulent patient records in the fictitious names, to justify the prescriptions.
Roger Lallemand Jr., who practiced in Old Bridge. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in January 2013. The Attorney General filed an administrative complaint against Lallemand in May 2012, alleging that he indiscriminately prescribed CDS, specifically narcotics and testosterone, to nine patients including an undercover officer from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, between December 2011 and March 2012.
Michael Chung Kay Lam, who practiced in Fort Lee. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in July 2013. Lam admitted that, among other things, he sold oxycodone prescriptions on multiple occasions for cash payments between $130 and $670, and that he falsified medical records by creating fictitious entries to make it appear he was providing medical treatment. The Board stated that Lam acted as the "physician equivalent of a street-level drug dealer" and that his conduct was "indistinguishable from that of any criminal drug dealer." Lam pleaded guilty in June 2012 to criminal distribution of CDS, and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Augustine Lee, who practiced in Trenton. The Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license in February 2013, having temporarily suspended his license in March 2011. According to information included in the Order to Show Cause, an investigation of federal and state law enforcement agents revealed he had issued hundreds of prescriptions for oxycodone and other controlled substances in exchange for cash payments, without conducting medical examinations. Lee pleaded guilty to unlawful distribution of oxycodone in January 2012. He was sentenced to one year and one day imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and agreed to the forfeiture of $83,800.
Jacqueline Lopresti, who practiced in Shrewsbury. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked her license in February 2013, following her admission that she engaged in the indiscriminate prescribing of CDS. Evidence obtained during a criminal investigation, as alleged in a Federal criminal complaint, noted that from June to September 2009, Lopresti met with various individuals at her medical office, home, and rest stops on the Garden State Parkway in which she exchanged CDS prescriptions for cash. On one such occasion, a confidential source brought cash in a paper bag that contained a blueberry muffin, and left it on Lopresti's front desk prior to receiving a prescription for 120 pills of oxycodone. In addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, Lopresti also accepted various gifts including bottles of wine from individuals to whom she illegally prescribed CDS. Lopresti pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and on July 29, 2013, was sentenced to 57 months incarceration in federal prison, fined $5,000, and agreed to forfeit $465,000 to the federal government.
Manuel B. Nigalan, who practiced in Atlantic City. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in October 2010. According to information included in the Order to Show Cause, a Federal investigation revealed Nigalan wrote prescriptions for hundreds of dosage units of CDS including oxycontin, Roxicodone, and Xanax, with no legitimate medical need, for confidential sources and undercover agents. The Order noted that Nigalan employed a security guard to keep order in his medical office, given the large volume of unannounced patients who appeared to request CDS prescriptions. Data obtained from the federal investigation revealed that insurance companies paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for CDS prescriptions issued by Nigalan for nonlegitimate purposes, according to the Order. He pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey in August 2010 to unlawful distribution of CDS, and was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment. He also agreed to forfeit $613,000.
Bipin Parikh, who practiced in Jersey City. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in December 2009. After being arrested and charged with issuing multiple prescriptions for Percocet, Endocet, Vicodin, and Lorcet in exchange for cash payments, he pleaded guilty in November 2009 to health care claims fraud and CDS distribution. He was sentenced to three years in state prison, and ordered to pay $685,209.79 in restitution to the State of New Jersey, plus a monetary penalty of $685,209.79.
Ronald Rahman, Rahman's medical license and CDS registration expired in July 2005. Despite being unlicensed in New Jersey, Rahman was arrested in June 2009 in Lindenwald and charged with selling CDS prescriptions to undercover officers from his car at a department store parking lot. The prescriptions were written on New York State prescription forms, according to information provided in the Order to Show Cause. Over the course of several visits, undercover officers were able to purchase thousands of dosage units of highly addictive narcotics including OxyContin, Roxicodone, and Percocet, using prescriptions purchased from Rahman, according to the Order. The undercover officers paid Rahman in cash, and he wrote the prescriptions in multiple patient names. In January 2012, Rahman pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey to illegal distribution of prescription drugs, and was sentenced to 25 months imprisonment.
Carnig Shakajian, a podiatrist who practiced in Park Ridge. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in May 2013, after having temporarily suspended his license in October 2011. Shakajian pleaded guilty in New Jersey Superior Court in January 2013 to conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone. According to information provided in the Order to Show Cause, he was accused of issuing CDS on more than 50 occasions to individuals, including undercover law enforcement agents, who had no legitimate medical need; and was accused of accepted $300 per prescription from individuals who would then re-sell the narcotics. Shakajian was sentenced to five years in New Jersey State prison.
For more information on the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' initiative to halt the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs, view the Division's NJPMP website at
www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/pmp, and the Division's Project Medicine Drop website at
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