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February 25, 2020

New Jersey doctor, the self-declared 'El Chapo of Opioids,' admits to writing illegal narcotics prescriptions

Robert Delagente falsified medical documents to hide his actions, federal prosecutors say

Investigations Opioids
Pill Mill Doctor Delagente Source/New Jersey Attorney General

New Jersey doctor Robert Delagente, who allegedly called himself the 'El Chapo of Opioids' admitted to distributing prescription narcotics without a legitimate medical reason, according to federal prosecutors.

A New Jersey doctor who allegedly referred to himself as the "El Chapo of Opioids," and "Candy Man" admitted to distributing prescription painkillers without a legitimate medical reason, according to federal prosecutors.

Robert Delagente, 45, of Oakland, Bergen County, admitted to writing opioid prescriptions for patients he rarely saw, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of New Jersey announced Monday. He also allowed patients to request the strength and dosage of their prescriptions – while not requiring a medical reason for the drugs, prosecutors said. 

Among the addictive painkillers Delagente allegedly prescribed: oxycodone, Percocet, Tylenol with codeine and  various forms of benzodiazepine. 

He also allegedly prescribed a dangerous drug regimen known as the "Holy Trinity," where a patient is simultaneously prescribed an opioid (usually oxycodone), a muscle relaxer, and a "benzo" all at once. The "Holy Trinity" is known to be dangerous and is typically only prescribed by pill mills. 

After Delagente received prescription requests via text message, he would leave them at the front desk of his practice, North Jersey Family Medicine, prosecutors said. He allegedly falsified medical documents to hide the illegal prescriptions. 

Delagente neglected to screen his patients for addiction and his behavior seemed to encourage the prescriptions for non-medical and recreational use, prosecutors said. 

In text messages, Delagente allegedly called one prescription "oral heroin" and told another patient that he could "lose my medical license or [be] arrested for what I just did." 

Law enforcement officials subpoenaed Delagente's records in April 2019, at which point Delagente allegedly attempted to make revisions to his records and hide his pill mill practice. 

Delagente was charged with three counts of distributing controlled substances, one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and one count of falsifying medical records. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

In 2018, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey sued Delagente, claiming he participated in an insurance fraud scheme that exceeded $2 million. The lawsuit alleged that Delagente was charging for work that was not completed. 

Two former employees spoke out after they discovered the fraud and refused to cooperate. They also filed suit against Delagente, claiming he retaliated against them. 

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