An Oakland doctor who boasted of being the “El Chapo of Opioids” will be sentenced to a plea-bargained five years in state prison after admitting that he submitted $32,000 in bogus health insurance claims.
Under the terms of his deal with the state, Robert Delagente will be sentenced to the five years on Jan. 10 in exchange for pleading guilty to health care claims fraud during a hearing in Superior Court in Hackensack.
Delagente, 45, admitted that he submitted seven fraudulent claims to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey totaling $32,006 between May and December 2016 while practicing at North Jersey Family Medicine on Yawpo Avenue in Oakland.
Delagente, whom authorities said also referred to himself as the “Candy Man,” was originally arrested by the FBI and accused of prescribing Oxycodone, Percocet and other pain medication without a legitimate medical reason -- and cooking the books to cover it up.
Those charges are still pending – meaning that Delagente could face additional time behind bars.
Federal authorities began investigating Delagente after two former employees accused him in a lawsuit filed in state court in Hackensack of firing them because they didn’t want to participate in illegal activity,
U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito said 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 also prescribed the dangerous drug combination known as the “Holy Trinity,” comprised of opioids (usually oxycodone), benzodiazepines (usually alprazolam) and muscle relaxers (usually carisoprodol), Carpenito 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, the U.S. attorney said.
Delagente agreed to the temporary suspension of his license pending the outcome of the federal charges and pending further action by the state Board of Medical Examiners, authorities said.
State authorities handled the insurance fraud crimes committed by Delagente – including billing insurance for allergy testing and immunotherapy services that he didn’t provide to patients.
“When doctors cheat the insurance system, they’re committing a crime that drives up the cost of healthcare for everyone, including the patients they took an oath to serve,” state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Wednesday.
“Insurance fraud costs insurance companies billions of dollars every year nationwide and those losses are passed on to all of us through higher insurance premiums and increased costs for goods and services,” said state Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Tracy M. Thompson.
Deputy Attorney General Crystal Callahan represented the state during the plea hearing.
Thompson noted that some important cases began with anonymous tips. Anyone concerned about insurance cheating who has information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the state’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at www.njinsurancefraud.org.
“State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to a conviction for insurance fraud,” the acting insurance fraud prosecutor said.
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