Medical doctor indicted for causing patient’s overdose death in Staten Island
(BROOKLYN, N.Y.) 12.21.2017 – A second superseding indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging medical doctor Martin Tesher with unlawfully prescribing oxycodone and fentanyl to a patient, Nicholas Benedetto, without legitimate medical purpose, which resulted in Benedetto’s overdose death on March 5, 2016 in Staten Island. Dr. Tesher was previously indicted for unlawfully prescribing thousands of oxycodone pills to patients without a legitimate medical purpose. Dr. Tesher’s arraignment on the second superseding indictment is scheduled for this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold.
Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division (DEA), announced the superseding indictment.
“As alleged, instead of providing his opioid addicted patients with medically appropriate and lawful care, Dr. Tesher quite literally fed their addiction, and, in this case, his actions resulted in the death of a patient,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “This Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to holding accountable those medical professionals who foster the opioid crisis for personal gain.”
“This investigation led law enforcement to a drug dealer using his doctor’s office as a front for opioid trafficking,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Hunt. “Dr. Tesher enabled drug addiction by prescribing medication beyond the scope of legitimate medical practice and need. Allegedly, his actions resulted in death. Law enforcement has and will continue to pool resources in order to identify drug sources who feed addiction in our communities.”
As alleged in court filings, the defendant operates a family medical practice in Manhattan. He was authorized by the DEA to treat up to 30 drug-addicted patients by prescribing them Schedule III, IV or V narcotics to ease their addiction. Dr. Tesher has, in fact, treated countless patients who identified as or whom he determined to be drug addicts. Instead of diverting those addicted patients to drug rehabilitation or prescribing them with Schedule III, IV or V drugs as authorized by law, Dr. Tesher prescribed his addicted patients with the very drugs they were addicted to, Schedule II opioids, such as oxycodone and fentanyl. While under Dr. Tesher’s care, many of his patients tested positive for drugs such as cocaine, heroin, morphine or methadone. Even upon learning that information, Dr. Tesher continued to prescribe those patients with Schedule II narcotics that could have been lethal on their own or in combination with the other drugs Dr. Tesher knew his patients were ingesting.
According to court documents, Benedetto was one of Dr. Tesher’s patients. While under Tesher’s care, Benedetto drug tested positive for cocaine, heroin, morphine and methadone, in addition to the oxycodone and fentanyl Dr. Tesher was prescribing to him. Dr. Tesher allegedly continued to prescribe Schedule II narcotics to Benedetto despite several indicators that his patient was addictively abusing those narcotics. Benedetto died of a drug overdose on March 5, 2016, two days after he had been prescribed both oxycodone and fentanyl patches by Dr. Tesher.
If convicted of the top charge, Dr. Tesher will face a mandatory minimum of 20 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life in prison. The charges in the superseding indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s investigation was led by the DEA’s Long Island Tactical Diversion Squad, which comprises agents and officers of the DEA, Internal Revenue Service, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), Suffolk County Police Department, Port Washington Police Department, and Rockville Centre Police Department. The DEA Tactical Diversion Squad also worked in conjunction with officers and agents of the New York City Police Department, Criminal Enterprise Investigations, the Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General, New York City Department of Investigation, and NCPD’s Asset Forfeiture and Intelligence Bureau.
This case is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York as part of the Prescription Drug Initiative. In January 2012, this Office and the DEA, in conjunction with the five District Attorneys in this district, the Nassau and Suffolk County Police Departments, the New York City Police Department, and New York State Police, along with other key federal, state, and local government partners, launched the Initiative to mount a comprehensive response to what the United States Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called an epidemic increase in the abuse of so-called opioid analgesics. To date, the Initiative has brought over 160 federal and local criminal prosecutions, including the prosecution of 19 health care professionals, taken civil enforcement actions against a hospital, a pharmacy, and pharmacy chain, removed prescription authority from numerous rogue doctors, and expanded information-sharing among enforcement agencies to better target and pursue drug traffickers. The Initiative also is involved in an extensive community outreach program to address the abuse of pharmaceuticals
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section. Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer M. Sasso is in charge of the prosecution.
Manhattan, New York