A Bergen County doctor who became notorious as the “El Chapo of Opioids” admitted in federal court Monday that he randomly wrote prescriptions for oxycodone, Percocet and more with no questions asked and then tried to cover his tracks.
Robert Delagente, 45, of Oakland, “knowingly prescribed for his patients some of the most dangerous and addictive drugs available, sometimes with no more contact than a text message from the patient,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said after Delagente pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark to illegally selling the drugs, falsifying records and conspiracy.
“Many of these patients were dealing with pain and addiction, and instead of getting help from their doctor, they were drawn deeper into the cycle of drug abuse,” Carpenito added.
Beginning in May 2014, Delagente was a doctor at North Jersey Family Medicine (NJFM) in Oakland, the U.S. attorney said.
He described himself in conversations as the “Candy Man” and the “El Chapo of Opioids” and freely prescribed oxycodone, Percocet, Tylenol with codeine and various benzodiazepines (alprazolam, diazepam, clonazepam, and temazepam) “outside the ordinary course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose,” Carpenito said.
Delagente did so most time without ever seeing the patient or even discussing the medical need for the drugs, he added.
He left prescriptions at the front desk, “without requiring an office visit or consultation of any kind,” Carpenito said.
Delagente prescribed the dangerous drug combination known as the “Holy Trinity,” comprised of opioids (usually oxycodone), benzodiazepines (usually alprazolam) and muscle relaxers (usually carisoprodol), the U.S. attorney said.
He didn’t monitor patients for addiction and ignored drug screening tests to determine whether certain patients were taking illegal drugs, either, Carpenito said.
“In fact, Delagente prescribed controlled substances to patients he knew were addicted to opioids or other controlled substances,” he said.
In one instance, an NJFM employee texted Delagente that a patient had gotten a babysitter and driven a long distance to get to the practice but had been unable to see a doctor, a complaint on file in U.S. District Court in Newark says.
Delagente allegedly responded: “Oh well … C’est la vie! Lol … He can wait for his oral heroin another day. Lol.”
One patient texted Delagente that the patient “probably can’t stop the pk’s,” referring to painkillers, the complaint says.
The patient told Delagente that the patient “would need a plan to stop…not cold turkey,” it ways.
A few days later, when the patient was having trouble obtaining pain medication, the patient wrote to Delagente that “If I go 4 days without [painkillers] I am in huge trouble.”
Delagente allegedly responded: “I will leave you a short supply RX [prescription] at the front to pick up.”
Delagente then wrote the patient a prescription for 120 tablets of 30-milligram oxycodone for 30 days, the complaint says.
Delagente allegedly told this patient: “I’m literally sticking my neck out and can lose my medical license or [be] arrested for what I just did.”
Delagente on Monday also admitted altering medical records of patients who received drug prescriptions from him after law enforcement officials had subpoenaed the records in late April 2019.
U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi scheduled sentencing for June 10.
Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to Monday’s guilty plea, secured by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason S. Gould of the Health Care Fraud Unit and Sean M. Sherman of the Opioids Unit in Newark.
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