New Jersey Doctor Convicted By Federal Jury For Writing Illegal Oxycodone Presctiptions In Drug Distribution Conspiracy
TNEWARK, N.J. – An internal medicine specialist who wrote illegal prescriptions for oxycodone was convicted today by a federal jury in New Jersey for his role in a conspiracy that put tens of thousands of prescription pills on the streets for resale, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Michael Durante, 59, of Montclair, N.J., was convicted 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 in Newark federal court.
According to the evidence at trial:
Between 2009 and March 2011, Durante regularly sold prescriptions of oxycodone to several people knowing the drugs would be resold on the street for profit. Two individuals in particular – Andre Domando, 48, of Belleville, N.J., and Dennis Abato, 61, of Lakewood, N.J. – each had a stable of patients they brought to Durante’s medical practice in Nutley, N.J., so he could give them prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone that would ultimately be sold through the redistribution network. Domando and Abato have each pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme.
In February of 2011, several undercover recordings were produced that showed Durante’s understanding of the illegal distribution he facilitated. At one point, 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 he sold to Domando, Abato and others. Typically, Durante would omit from the progress notes for those patients many of the additional prescriptions he had sold. On other occasions, he falsely wrote that prescriptions had been provided to replace lost prescriptions – including noting on one occasion that a dog may have eaten one of the prescriptions he provided to Domando.
In total, Durante provided prescriptions for more than 70,000 oxycodone pills to be illegally resold by his coconspirators.
At sentencing, Durante faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the 16 counts of which he was convicted. A sentencing date has not yet been set. A hearing has been scheduled for tomorrow, May 23, 2013, to discuss the forfeiture of nearly $300,000 in cash found in Durante’s home.
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 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 leading to today’s conviction.
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.
Defense counsel: Cathy Fleming and Harold Ruvoldt Esqs., New York