MIDDLETOWN: PAIN DOC SENTENCED

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03A former Red Bank physician who once ran an illegal prescription painkiller ring was sentenced to six years in New Jersey state prison last week.

Middletown resident Kenneth Lewandowski, 53, who Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni once called “parasitic,” was sentenced Friday to six years in prison with a two-year period of parole ineligibility under a plea deal accepted by  Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley.

Oxley also ordered Lewandowski’s license to practice medicine be revoked, and included a provision to permanently revoke his ability to write prescriptions for controlled dangerous substances.

According to the Asbury Park Press, Oxley gave Lewandowski credit for the time he has already served in the Monmouth County Jail while awaiting the outcome of the case. His attorney, George Mardinly, told the newspaper that Lewandowski has been in jail since Dec. 19, 2014.

“Let this be a reminder to other doctors who seek to travel the same route as Dr. Lewandowski,” Gramiccioni said in a prepared statement issued Tuesday. “There is an epidemic of prescription opiates and heroin abuse that is killing people across the country, and it is a priority for law enforcement across Monmouth County.”

According to Lewandowski’s attorney, the death by drowning of  nephew in Lewandowski’s pool set the physician on a downward spiral of financial difficulties that led to bankruptcy, the Press reported.

Lewandowski pleaded guilty in January to illegal distribution of Oxycodone and unlawful practice of medicine while his physician’s license was suspended.

In a prepared statement, Gramiccioni said Lewandowski admitted that after his license to practice medicine in New Jersey was suspended, he obtained blank prescription sheets in the name of another doctor with whom he was discussing going into business.

After he picked up the other doctor’s blank prescription sheets, Lewandowski gave some of them to his office manager, Thomas Menendez.

Menendez admitted on Tuesday that he would then sell the pills to other people or use them himself, according to Gramiccioni. He also acknowledged that he was stopped and found in possession of the Oxycodone in Middletown Township.

Lewandowski admitted that he personally forged prescriptions in the other doctor’s name to four of his former patients, who ultimately obtained 120 oxycodone pills each.  Lewandowski also admitted to signing the other doctor’s name without his permission, and indicated that the other doctor had never treated these patients, Gramiccioni said.

Gramiccioni said Lewandowski’s old patient files from his now-defunct pain management practice in Red Bank were utilized to find subjects eager to purchase the forged prescriptions for a price of $300 to $400 per prescription.

Lewandowski also conspired with Ronald Scott, a 65-year-old physician’s assistant from Toms River, who wrote prescriptions for Lewandowski’s former patients without the approval of a licensed physician, Gramiccioni said.

Middletown Police began an investigation after receiving information from a local pharmacy that a subject presented a fraudulent prescription attempting to obtain Oxycodone on November 24, 2014.

Investigators from the state Division of Consumer Affairs also received a complaint from the licensed doctor that the prescriptions utilized by the prescription drug ring were issued without his knowledge. Investigators quickly identified Lewandowski and Menendez as the people behind the prescription drug ring.

In April, 2015, Rumson-based Nelson Press was found to have unwittingly provided prescription pads to Lewandowski. State authorities barred the company from producing blank prescription forms used by doctors after an investigation uncovered lax controls.