Rockville Physician Indicted for Illegally Distributing Prescription Drugs, Causing Death of a Patient
GREENBELT, MD—A federal grand jury has indicted Silviu Ziscovici, M.D., a/k/a “Dr. Z,” age 59, of Rockville, Maryland, on charges of conspiracy to distribute and distribution of controlled dangerous substances, distribution of a controlled dangerous substance resulting in death, and money laundering, in connection with his Rockville pain management practice. The indictment was returned on July 28, 2014, and unsealed today upon the arrest of the defendant.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the Drug Enforcement Administration—Washington Field Division; Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Washington Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Kelly of the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department.
“Sadly, many drug users become hooked on oxycodone with the assistance of medical professionals, then move on to even more dangerous drugs such as heroin,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Local, state and federal authorities in Maryland are working together to identify corrupt medical professionals who operate ‘pill mills,’ put them out of business and hold them accountable.”
“To those who practice medicine and abuse the privilege of caring for their patients by inappropriately prescribing controlled substances, DEA has a strong message for you: We will investigate you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” said Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the Drug Enforcement Administration—Washington Field Division.
“Providing prescription drugs to people who do not need them is no different than distributing illegal street drugs,” said Assistant Director in Charge Parlave. “When abused and used outside of legitimate medical purposes, pain medications have dangerous effects on users. The FBI is committed to the pursuit of prescription drug abuse and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect our community from the dangers of these crimes.”
“Physicians who exploit the trust given to them by facilitating the abuse of controlled dangerous substances are negatively impacting our entire community. IRS-Criminal Investigation will work with our law enforcement partners to insure that these individuals are held accountable for their actions and do not profit from their criminal activity,” said Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington D.C. Field Office.
According to the indictment, Silviu Ziscovici was a physician who held a Maryland medical license. Ziscovici worked as a pain management specialist and practiced out of an office in Rockville, Maryland. As a medical doctor, Ziscovici was authorized to prescribe medicine, including controlled substances, to patients for legitimate medical purposes and in the usual course of professional practice.
The 29-count indictment alleges from at least July 2009 through June 22, 2013, Ziscovici conspired to distribute and distributed controlled dangerous substances. As part of the conspiracy, Ziscovici prescribed oxycodone, methadone, morphine, alprazolam and other controlled substances to patients without individually assessing their medical needs. As a result, the indictment alleges that Ziscovici’s office served as a “pill mill,” at which individuals paid a fee to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances without any demonstrated medical need.
The indictment alleges that a co-conspirator residing in Tennessee repeatedly provided transportation for himself and others from Tennessee to Ziscovici’s office in Rockville, to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances. According to the indictment, Ziscovici instructed the co-conspirator not to bring anyone under the age of 25, or anyone with visible “track marks” to Ziscovici’s office. The indictment alleges that, among other things, Ziscovici conducted cursory, incomplete, or no medical examination of patients, prescribed inappropriate combinations of medications, increased patients’ dosages without medical justification, and treated a large number of patients who had travelled long distances to his office in order to obtain prescriptions for highly addictive controlled substances.
The indictment alleges that Ziscovici repeatedly caused oxycodone, methadone, morphine, alprazolam and other drugs to be distributed, outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. According to the indictment, on February 2, 2010, Ziscovici caused methadone to be distributed to a patient, outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, and the patient died as a result of using the methadone.
Finally, the indictment charges that Ziscovici used the proceeds of the drug distribution to purchase a vehicle, specifically, using a check in the amount of $13,983.70 drawn on his business checking account. The indictment seeks the forfeiture of at least $651,500, which constitutes proceeds traceable to the drug distribution, as well as cash, coins and jewelry seized from Ziscovici’s bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, and from his home.
Ziscovici faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, and up to life in prison, for distribution of controlled substances resulting in death; 20 years in prison for each of the 26 counts of distribution of controlled substances and for the conspiracy; and 10 years in prison for money laundering. Ziscovici had an initial appearance this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, and remains in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday, August 1, 2014, at 3:30 p.m. An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the DEA, FBI, IRS-CI, and Montgomery County Police Department for their work in the investigation and recognized the Virginia State Police, Knox County, Tennessee, Sheriff’s Office, and the Blount County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office for their assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Arun G. Rao and Daniel C. Gardner, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.