Brooklyn, New York - A federal jury in Brooklyn Wednesday, following two weeks of trial, convicted Dr. Martin Tesher of 10 counts of unlawful distribution of oxycodone without legitimate medical purpose to five patients, one of whom died as a result two days after his last visit with the defendant. When sentenced by United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie, Dr. Tesher faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life in prison.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James J. Hunt, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Division, announced the verdict.
“It is incredible but true that some medical professionals have chosen to violate their oaths and exploit our nation's drug epidemic for profit, even at the cost of human lives,” stated Attorney General Sessions. “This doctor knowingly took advantage of drug addicts and even contributed to the death of a young man. The Department of Justice is relentlessly pursuing criminals like him: we have charged more than 200 doctors with opioid-related crimes since the beginning of last year. We are going to keep pursuing these cases because they help cut off the supply of drugs and stop fraudsters from exploiting vulnerable people. I want to thank the DEA, our partners at IRS, four local police departments and especially our fabulous prosecutors Jennifer Sasso and Penelope Brady for their hard work in this case. I believe that they have helped prevent many more New Yorkers from falling into addiction and death.”
“Dr. Tesher dispensed opioids to patients whom he knew were abusing illegal drugs and the tragic result was an overdose death,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “Today, the jury held Dr. Tesher responsible for the part he played in fueling the opioid epidemic by abandoning his responsibilities as a medical professional and for acting as a drug dealer with a prescription pad. This Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to work tirelessly to combat the opioid epidemic on all fronts, including prosecuting corrupt doctors who disregard the well-being of their patients by prescribing highly addictive drugs without legitimate medical purpose.”
“DEA doesn’t tell doctors how to practice medicine, DEA is a watchdog to ensure doctors’ prescriptions are written for the right reason and betterment of their patient’s health,” stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Hunt. “This trial brings to light how opioid traffickers can hide in plain sight, like Dr. Tesher; and how heartbreaking drug addiction is to families and friends of substance abusers. I commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the DEA’s Long Island District Office Tactical Diversion Squad on their diligent work throughout this investigation. DEA will continue to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to battle opioid traffickers and suppliers at all levels.”
The evidence at trial established that between June 2013 and January 2017, Dr. Tesher, a medical doctor specializing in general family care, prescribed oxycodone and fentanyl on a continuing basis without a legitimate medical purpose to patients after he learned, or had reason to believe, that these patients were addicted to drugs. The five patients either told Dr. Tesher that they had a drug addiction, had previously been treated for drug addiction, or tested positive for illegal drugs such as cocaine or heroin during the course of their treatment by the defendant. While under Dr. Tesher’s care, Nicholas Benedetto, 27, tested positive for cocaine, heroin and methadone in addition to oxycodone and fentanyl. Dr. Tesher continued to prescribe oxycodone and fentanyl to Benedetto despite indicators that he was abusing those drugs. Benedetto was found dead of a fatal combination of oxycodone and fentanyl on March 5, 2016, two days after he had been prescribed oxycodone and fentanyl patches by Dr. Tesher. According to a government expert witness, none of the patients for whom Tesher is charged in the superseding indictment had verified medical conditions that would require the prescription of Schedule II opioids.
The government’s investigation was led by the DEA’s Long Island Tactical Diversion Squad, which is comprised of 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, the 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 the 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 Attorneys Jennifer M. Sasso and Penelope Brady are in charge of the prosecution.