A New Jersey medical doctor along with 17 other suspects were arrested and accused of distributing tens of thousands of high-dose pills of the opioid painkiller oxycodone as well as Xanax. Investigators say Dr. Craig Gialanella, 53, of North Caldwell, New Jersey, sold prescriptions for cash to a ring of drug dealers in Atlantic County, New Jersey and wrote fraudulent prescriptions for people who had no legitimate medical need for the pills.
The arrests are the result of "Operation Oxy Highway," an investigation that targeted corrupt health care professionals and "pill mills." Since 2014, a team made up of detectives and attorneys with the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, charged six doctors, including Gialanella, with illegally distributing opiates. Investigators say two of those doctors were also charged with strict liability for overdose deaths.
The investigation began in December, 2016 after a pharmacist in Atlantic County reported that Douglas Patterson, 53, of Egg Harbor Township, and other local residents were using Dr. Gialanella's office to obtain a large amount of opiates. Patterson allegedly used several dates of birth on oxycodone prescriptions to avoid detection.
Between January 1, 2016 and December 7, 2016, Dr. Gialanella allegedly issued 413 prescriptions for approximately 50,000 oxycodone 30 milligram tablets in the names of 30 people in the Atlantic County area. These included prescriptions for the alleged leaders and members of the drug ring, investigators said.
Investigators say Patterson introduced his ex-wife Mary Connolly and several other Atlantic County residents to Dr. Gialanella as a source for the pills. In return, Patterson allegedly required the "patients" to provide him with a share of the pills they received using prescriptions from Dr. Gialanella. Patterson, Connolly and Connolly's daughter Lauren Connolly allegedly worked together to obtain and distribute the pills.
Investigators say Dr. Gialanella charged his "patients" $50 to $100 for an "office visit" which only lasted a few minutes and didn't involved any exam, testing or treatment. Gialanella allegedly wrote from two to five prescriptions for the drugs for a single patient every 30 days and would often leave the date of birth blank.
Patterson and Mary Connolly allegedly managed the supply and distribution side of the drug ring in Atlantic County. Lauren Connolly allegedly worked as an intermediary between her mother, Patterson and street-level distributors.
Officials say the investigation is ongoing. They suspect Dr. Gialanella illegally prescribed oxycodone to people in other counties. Between January, 2014 and May, 2017, Gialanella allegedly issued prescriptions for more than 350,000 oxycodone 30 milligram tablets. Investigators also say he reduced his illegal prescriptions of oxycodone in Atlantic County after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a law in February that set a five-day limit on initial prescriptions for opioid painkillers.