Madison Borough Councilman Vincent A. Esposito, a physician, has been arrested on charges that he repeatedly sold prescriptions for the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin to people he never treated or examined, state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced Friday.
Esposito, 54, who has an office at 322 Main St. in Madison, was arrested Thursday by the state Division of Criminal Justice and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The arrest came after DEA special agents and Criminal Justice detectives executed a search warrant at Esposito’s office.
Esposito is charged with distribution of a controlled dangerous substance and conspiracy, both in the second degree. The charges stem from an ongoing investigation by the DEA and the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
“The abuse of prescription painkillers is becoming a deadly national epidemic, with 40 Americans dying each day from these narcotics,” Chiesa said. “For a doctor to indiscriminately prescribe dangerous addictive pills for personal profit, as we allege in this case, is both a serious crime and a shocking betrayal of professional ethics.”
“Our joint investigation with the DEA is ongoing,” Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor said. “We have made it a priority to detect and prosecute the doctors, pharmacists, drug dealers and other criminals who profit from the vast black market for prescription pain pills that exists in New Jersey.”
New Jersey DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell said, “This is an educated medical professional, who violated his oath to his patients, despite all the public awareness campaigns in New Jersey identifying the dangers of diverted pain medicine and the harm and pain they cause in our communities. The defendant is a prime example of the problems fueling our drug threat in the region, and we are relieved he is out of business.”
For nearly a year, the DEA has been investigating allegations that Esposito was selling prescriptions for OxyContin and other forms of oxycodone, the generic name of the narcotic in OxyContin, to people he did not treat or examine, and, in some cases, never saw at all. The investigation was joined by the Division of Criminal Justice, which will prosecute the case.
During the investigation, Esposito allegedly wrote prescriptions for oxycodone for confidential informants and undercover agents of the DEA in exchange for cash on at least eight occasions. In each instance, Esposito failed to perform any medical exam prior to providing the prescriptions.
In the case of the confidential informants, Esposito wrote prescriptions for 120 pills of 30 milligrams. Thirty milligrams is considered a high dose of the potent narcotic painkiller. He allegedly provided the undercover agents with prescriptions for 30 or 60 pills of 30 milligrams. Esposito also allegedly provided individuals who visited his office with oxycodone prescriptions written for other individuals who never visited the office. It is alleged that Esposito typically charged $90 to write an oxycodone prescription for 120 pills of 30 milligrams.
Esposito was lodged in the Morris County Jail with bail set at $75,000.
Under state law, second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000. Because the charge is an indictable offense, the case will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment.
After his arrest, Esposito surrendered his federal registration to write prescriptions for controlled dangerous substances.
In addition, state Consumer Affairs Director Thomas R. Calcagni issued an emergent order immediately suspending Esposito’s state CDS registration. The order represents the first such action under the powers granted by the Legislature to the director to ensure the public safety and welfare where CDS prescribing is concerned.
“Because the danger of indiscriminate prescribing of highly addictive narcotics is so inimical to the public health and safety, I have taken this extraordinary step to ensure that Dr. Esposito will do no further harm to the people of the state of New Jersey,” Calcagni said.
The state Board of Medical Examiners has been informed of the arrest and will be considering additional action with regard to Esposito’s medical license in New Jersey.
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM