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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Frederick Pediatrician Whose License Was Revoked Admits to Prescribing Oxycodone Without a Medical Need

Opened a “Pain Management Practice” and Prescribed Opioids to People Who Had No Medical Need for the Drugs

Baltimore, Maryland – Nicola Tauraso, age 81, of Frederick, Maryland pleaded guilty today to health care fraud.  

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Washington Field Division; Frederick County Sheriff Charles A. “Chuck” Jenkins; and Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio, Office of Investigations, Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services; Colonel Robert K. "Ken" Ziegler Jr., Superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police; Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore; and Captain Paul “Joey” Kifer, Acting Chief of the Hagerstown Police Department.  

According to his plea agreement, from 1972 to 2007, Tauraso practiced as a pediatrician.  In 2009 he began a practice in pain management, located in Frederick, in which he saw an excessive number of patients and wrote prescriptions for certain drugs, particularly Oxycodone and Oxycontine, without determining if a medical need existed for these prescriptions.  For example, records of Tauraso’s prescriptions with only one pharmacist showed that in 2009 to 2010, he wrote 6,368 prescriptions, and that oxycodone accounted for the vast majority. 

Cash deposits and the number of prescriptions gradually increased through the beginning of 2010 and peaked in May 2010, when Tauraso had $251,673 in cash deposits.  Tauraso deposited approximately $821,358 in cash into his bank accounts in 2010, of which approximately $575,000 was transferred to a bank in Panama.

Law enforcement frequently observed three or four patients getting out of a car to enter Tauraso’s office.  Former employees told law enforcement that Tauraso would see approximately 80 patients in a usual eight hour day.

In June 2011, the Maryland State Board of Physicians revoked Tauraso’s medical license, after finding that Tauraso prescribed Oxycondone, oxycontin and other drugs to 17 patients without taking sufficient medical history, or performing a physical or other tests.

An insurance  investigator found that: 75% of the patients listed were being seen for lumbago, a non-descript diagnosed back injury, which is a red flag for drug diversion; the volume of medical claims was alarming; at least five patients were prescribed Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Xanax and Tramadol, which is a deadly medication combination; patients traveled from great distances including from Pasadena, Dundalk, Prince George’s County and outside Maryland in order to see Tauraso; and patients did not use insurance for doctor visits with Tauraso, but used insurance for their prescriptions.

At least seven pharmacists in the Frederick area stopped filling Tauraso’s prescriptions in 2009 and 2010 due to concerns that these prescriptions were not medically necessary.

Taursao admitted that the loss from his billings to Medicare and Medicaid and for fraudulent prescriptions was $350,000.

Tauraso has agreed to forfeit funds held in his Panamanian bank account, which is approximately $100,000.

Tauraso faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis scheduled sentencing for August 8, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the DEA, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Health and Human Services – OIG, Maryland Natural Resources Police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Hagerstown Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Ayn B. Ducao, who is prosecuting the case.

Drug Trafficking
Updated June 8, 2016