Federal prosecutors say a North Bethesda doctor served as a “pill mill” for prescription drug abusers from as far as Tennessee and is responsible for distributing methadone to a patient who died as a result of using the drug.
Silviu Ziscovici, known as “Dr. Z” according to federal officials, was charged earlier this week with conspiracy to distribute and distribution of controlled dangerous substances, distribution of a controlled dangerous substance resulting in death and money laundering in connection to his 11400 Rockville Pike pain and management practice.
The indictment, brought by a grand jury at the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, alleges that Ziscovici used his state medical license to prescribe oxycodone, methadone, morphine, alprazolam and other controlled substances to patients without any apparent medical need for the drugs.
The indictment alleges users paid Ziscovici a fee to get the prescriptions from at least July 2009 through June 22, 2010.
An investigation of Ziscovici by the Drug Enforcement Agency led to the Maryland Board of Physicians permanently revoking his medical license in December 2010. No criminal charges were filed at the time, but DEA information in the suspension order revealed 15 of his patients died from drug overdoses and that he’d been seeing about 35 patients a day from 13 different states for a profit of between $1.4 million and $1.9 million a year.
The DEA said it began investigating Ziscovici in September 2009 after several Maryland pharmacists reported to the state Division of Drug Control that they had seen unusually high number of Ziscovici’s patients with prescriptions for large amounts of pain medication. According to the suspension order, Montgomery County Police began investigating Ziscovici in the summer of 2009 using undercover detectives.
The 29-count federal indictment was announced Wednesday and means Ziscovici faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and up to life in prison for the the single charge of distribution resulting in death. The 26 counts of distribution of controlled substances and for conspiracy each carry 20-year sentences and the money laundering charge carries a 10-year sentence.
Ziscovici had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on Wednesday and remains in custody pending a detention hearing set for Friday afternoon.
The federal indictment alleges that on Feb. 2, 2010, Ziscovici “caused methadone to be distributed to a patient, outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose” that led to the death of one patient.
The indictment also alleges that a co-conspirator living in Tennessee would regularly transport people from Tennessee to Ziscovici’s North Bethesda office:
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.