An Oakland doctor who authorities said called himself the “Candy Man” and the “El Chapo of Opioids” was arrested by the FBI and charged with prescribing oxycodone, Percocet and other pain medication without a legitimate medical reason -- and cooking the books to cover it up.
FBI agents Monday morning raided the offices of Robert Delagente, 45, at North Jersey Family Medicine (NJFM) and High Mountain Health in Oakland, telling arriving patients to call back to make an appointment.
Federal authorities began investigating Delagente after two former employees accused them of firing them because they didn’t want to participate in illegal activity, in a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Hackensack.
According to U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito, Delagente routinely 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.
Sometimes he didn’t even see the patient for a medical visit or even discuss the reasons for his or her needing the drug, Carpenito said.
At times, he took requests by text and left the drugs at the front desk, the U.S. attorney added.
Patients even got to dictate the strength and dosage, he said.
Delagente “ignored the inherent danger and medical risk of overdose, drug abuse, and death that can accompany prescriptions of highly addictive opioids, benzodiazepines, and muscle relaxers, both on their own and in combination with one another,” Carpenito said.
Delagente also 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.
Delagente didn’t monitor or screen the patients afterward, he added.
He even prescribed drugs to patients he knew were addicted to opioids or other medications, Carpenito said.
One patient texted Delagente that the patient “probably can’t stop the pk’s,” referring to painkillers, according to a complaint filed against the physician in U.S. District Court in Newark. The patient told Delagente of needing a plan to stop, “not cold turkey.”
Having trouble obtaining pain medication, the patient wrote to Delagente that “If I go 4 days without [painkillers] I am in huge trouble,” the federal complaint says.
In response, Delagente wrote “I will leave you a short supply RX [prescription] at the front to pick up,” it says.
He then wrote the patient a prescription for 120 tablets of 30-milligram oxycodone for 30 days.
Delagente told the patient: “I’m literally sticking my neck out and can lose my medical license or [be] arrested for what I just did.”
Delagente had a Monday afternoon federal court appearance scheduled in Newark.
Charged with one count of drug dealing and one of obstruction of justice, . Delagente is scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in Newark federal court.
Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to the charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erica Liu, chief of the U.S. attorney’s Opioids Unit, and Jason S. Gould of the Opioids Unit are handling the case.
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