A New Jersey doctor was among 16 people busted for allegedly distributing tens of thousands of opiates as part of a multi-million dollar scheme prosecutors dubbed the “Oxy Highway.”
Dr. Craig Gialanella, of North Caldwell, has a medical practice in an office complex in Belleville, but he allegedly sold opiate prescriptions for cash to a ring of drug dealers in Atlantic County more than 100 miles away.
“Between January of ’14 and 2017, the defendant issued scripts for 250,000 Oxycodone 30 milligram tablets,” New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino said.
A note on the door of Gialanella’s office Wednesday read: “Dr. will not be seeing patients this week due to an unexpected emergency.”
The 53-year-old internist is the sixth New Jersey physician in the past three years to be charged with illegally distributing opiates.
The leaders of the drug ring were identified by authorities as 53-year-old Doug Patterson, of Egg Harbor, Patterson’s ex-wife, 54-year-old Mary Connolly, and Connolly’s 28-year-old daughter, Lauren Connolly. Authorities allege that Gialanella supplied the drugs and that Patterson used multiple birth dates on prescriptions to avoid detection.
A medical assistant to another doctor in Gialanella’s office building said she was disturbed but not surprised.
“It’s not right,” she said. “Painkillers can kill you and it’s not right. These doctors are just looking for another dollar.”
Attorney General Porrino credits an Atlantic County pharmacist with reporting the suspicious prescriptions. The bust netted 18 defendants overall.
Gialanella’s license has been suspended. If convicted as charged, he and most of the other defendants face up to 10 years in prison.
State figures for New Jersey show drug-related deaths during the first half of 2016 numbered more than 1,000 statewide. That’s a 46 percent jump from the same period in 2015.