Burlington County District Attorney Scott Coffina has announced that a former doctor has been charged with 21 counts of drug distribution and fraud for illegally prescribing thousands of highly addictive opioid pills in his Township of Bordentown while engaging in an illegal medical billing program over a three year period.
County officials say Morris “Moishe” Starkman, 62, of Yellowstone Road in Cinnaminson, was indicted by a grand jury with fifteen counts of distributing a controlled dangerous substance (second degree), five counts of Charges of healthcare fraud (second degree) and one count of insurance fraud (third degree).
Officials say the indictment was released on Nov. 19 and signed by First Deputy Prosecutor Philip S. Aronow. An indictment will soon take place in Superior Court.
Starkman was charged on November 22, 2019, following the execution of a search warrant at his home in which several electronic devices were seized, as well as business, financial and medical records.
The investigation determined that between January 1, 2015 and January 1, 2018, Starkman dispensed prescriptions through his Bordentown family practice for nearly 1,400,000 total doses of opioids, including Oxycodone. (OxyContin, Percocet, Roxicodone, Endocet), Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco, Lorcet, Lortab), Oxymorphone (Opana), Hydromorphone (Dilaudid), morphine and fentanyl.
The investigation reveals that the eight patients described in the criminal charges against Starkman received an average of 11 doses of opioids per day during this period.
Authorities say a single patient was prescribed 17,460 doses, which equates to more than 15 per day.
According to officials, they each received between four and 10 times the maximum dose recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The investigation revealed that Starkman would perform – at most – superficial examinations on patients before prescribing large amounts of opioids without medical justification, to examine whether his patients were benefiting from the prescription pain relievers he prescribed regularly and to repeatedly, or explore the underlying causes of their pain.
According to the investigation, Starkman has kept inadequate records of his patients who have not documented treatment plans for pain management or opioid use, or provided a legitimate medical purpose for prescribing such high amounts. for an extended period.
His patients’ dependence on the highly addictive opioids he prescribed ensured that they would return to the office frequently for refills and be billed for an office visit, officials said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died of overdoses and millions more struggle with substance use disorders,” said Attorney Coffina.
“In a lot of these cases, the person’s addiction started with prescribed opioids. Physicians who violated their oath and their patients’ trust by indiscriminately prescribing opioid drugs without monitoring how their patients were doing with the drugs and whether they became dependent should be held accountable for criminal behavior that contributed to the destruction of lives and the relentless crisis of addiction that many still struggle with.
The investigation also revealed that Starkman, during the same period, submitted fraudulent health care claims to insurance companies for more than $ 50,000 for unauthorized services, not eligible for reimbursement, not delivered as indicated or not delivered.
Officials say Starkman first came to the attention of law enforcement in late 2016 after an insurance company contacted authorities suspected of illegal activity in his office due to the high volume of prescriptions. opioids he was writing.
Officials say the State Board of Medical Examiners temporarily suspended Starkman’s license in August 2017. Under a consent order issued in April 2018, Starkman agreed to permanently relinquish his license to practice medicine in New York. Jersey.
Records seized from Starkman’s office revealed that one of his patients fatally overdosed in May 2015, two months after his last visit to the Bordentown office.
Records indicated that during a visit in December 2014, Starkman continued to prescribe Oxycontin to the patient, although he noted that he “mumbled and fell asleep” during the visit.
The following month, when the patient came to the office because he was “sick” and “running out of all his medications again,” Starkman wrote him a prescription for a higher dose of Oxycodone.
During the patient’s last visit in March 2015, Starkman prescribed an additional 120 Oxycodone tablets, although he noted that three days earlier he had been released from a week-long stay in a nursing home. mental health and addiction treatment where he sought help for anxiety and panic. attacks.
Officials say that due to insufficient evidence linking his prescriptions to the patient’s fatal overdose, Starkman has not been criminally charged in connection with the patient’s death.
Officials say Starkman is being sued by Deputy Prosecutor Michael Angermeier, Supervisor of the BCPO Gang, Guns and Narcotics Task Force and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Philip S. Aronow.
The case was investigated by the BCPO Gang, Gun and Narcotics Task Force and the US Drug Enforcement Administration – DEA Diversion Control Division, with assistance from the NJ Division of the Consumer Affairs Enforcement Bureau, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Special Investigations and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
An indictment is an accusation.