DEC 17 (NEWARK, N.J.) – Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New Jersey Division, and Paul J. Fishman, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey announced an internal medicine specialist who wrote illegal prescriptions for oxycodone was sentenced today to 136 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy that put tens of thousands of prescription pills on the streets for resale.
Michael Durante, 59, of Montclair, N.J., was previously convicted at trial of 16 of the 17 counts in the superseding indictment against him: one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and 15 counts of unlawful distribution of the drug. The jury returned the verdict on the second day of deliberations following a nearly three-month trial before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler. Judge Chesler imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to the evidence at trial:
Between July 2009 and March 2011, Durante sold prescriptions for more than 80,000 oxycodone pills to patients who were engaged in drug trafficking. The street-level redistribution of the pills prescribed by Durante was accomplished primarily by two "crews," one headed by Andre Domando, 49, of Belleville, N.J., and the other by Dennis Abato, 61, of Lakewood, N.J., who each had a stable of patients they brought to Durante's medical practice in Nutley, N.J. Durante gave them prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone that would ultimately be sold through the redistribution network.
Recordings played at trial illustrated Durante's understanding of the illegal distribution he facilitated. For example, in a February 2011 recording, Durante said he knew Domando was reselling the prescriptions for a large profit, stating, "I just know because my friend does the same thing you do. He sells these for a thousand to twelve hundred dollars a bottle." Durante, referring to prescriptions he provided to Domando over the previous week, then stated "[s]o two last week, four this week – you should have six thousand dollars in your pocket," adding, "I know what people do with these things. You gotta have at least twelve, fifteen thousand dollars a month of income here."
Durante was also captured on tape accepting $300 from Domando in exchange for prescriptions, as well as $100 for an extra prescription he sold to an undercover agent. At trial, a witness testified that he delivered envelopes of cash to Durante in exchange for extra prescriptions.
Additionally, Durante falsified medical records in the files of the patients who received the oxycodone prescriptions. For example, Durante falsely documented physical exams, including blood pressure and heart rates, of a patient who was in Florida at the time of Durante's purported exam. Durante repeatedly omitted from the progress notes for patients many of the additional prescriptions he had sold, or falsely wrote that prescriptions had been provided to replace lost prescriptions – including one note that a dog may have eaten replacement prescriptions he provided to Domando.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Chesler sentenced Durante to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $629,461 in restitution. Durante is also required to pay a $4,000 fine. Judge Chesler sentenced Domando to 48 months in prison in November 2013. Abato awaits sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited the New Jersey DEA Tactical Diversion Squad, made up of DEA special agents, diversion investigators and intelligence analysts; FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation special agents; and law enforcement officers from the Essex County Sheriff's Department and the Elizabeth, Clinton Township (Hunterdon County), Toms River and Newark Police Departments with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Mahajan and Osmar J. Benvenuto of the U.S. Attorney's Office Criminal Division in Newark.