NEEDHAM (CBS) – A former Needham doctor and his nurse practitioner have been indicted by federal prosecutors for prescribing dangerous medication for a profit that allegedly led to the deaths of six patients.

Doctor Joseph Zolot and nurse practitioner Lisa Pliner are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

They will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Boston Thursday afternoon.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports.

The grand jury indictment claims, over a six-year period beginning in 2001, Zolot and Pliner wrote out prescriptions for methadone, oxycodone, and fentanyl to patients who did not have any medical need for the narcotics and were knowingly abusing them or dealing them.

Court documents say the two would prescribe enough drugs to get patients addicted, forcing them to return for additional doses.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports.

Authorities say Zolot and Pliner would charge patients about $300 for their initial visit and about $125 for any subsequent visits.

His lawyer says Dr. Zolot was a political refugee who came here from the Soviet Union in the late 1970’s. The government says in its indictment he, “…provided prescriptions for controlled substances to individuals through (his) medical practice”…and that, “methadone distributed by defendants Zolot and Pliner did result in the deaths of six men:

Dennis Dillon, 36, Died 2004
Jeffrey Campbell, 26, Died 2005
Thomas Dunphy, 49, Died 2005
James Curley, 44, Died 2005
Christopher Bartoloni, 35, Died 2006
Scot Poulack, 39, Died 2006

The indictment alleges that at least six of those cases resulted in the patients’ addiction, deteriorated health, overdose, and eventual death.

In 2001, one patient’s insurance company sent Zolot a letter questioning his prescription practices, but, according to the indictment, Zolot never responded.

Zolot’s Needham office was raided by the FBI and DEA in May 2007 after which he gave up his medical license. But his attorney says he maintains his innocence.

“And in a practice like Dr. Zolot’s, where people were coming to him for very, very serious problems and pain management, it was inevitable that there would be some unfortunate results but those were unfortunate medical results,” said attorney Howard Cooper.

Zolot’s wife and Pliner’s husband left the courthouse with no comment. Pliner’s attorney had little more to say. “We will be pleading not guilty to all charges and she looks forward to vindicating her rights in front of a jury.”

The U.S. Attorney had no comment. The maximum sentence the doctor and his nurse practitioner face is life in prison that carries a 20-year minimum.

WBZ-TV’s Ron Sanders contributed to this report.

Comments (16)
  1. jerry says:

    This burns me up real bad because i unfortunately take pain killers because of my back , knees, and shoulder , with a pinched nerve in lower back and neck and i hate having to take them but really have not much a choice and i still hurt . I am sorta lucky my doctor lets me still get them even though he does not like to prescribe them and he kinda frowns on having to give me them but if it was not for all the MRI i have done at least he sees im not kidding , but people like that including that doctor and nurse MAKES it very hard on people like me who really needs it just to get by every day i hope they throw the book at them for doing that because people like that makes it very hard on people like me who really needs the pain medicine just to gety by .

  2. Mary says:

    FirSt of all let me say that she is not the “doctor’s nurse practitioner.” Nurse practitioners don’t BELONG to doctors. We are independent practitioners. Please correct that incorrect statement.

    1. jerry says:

      Regardless they both should be in jail for that . This is why its so hard for a person with real pain and problem suffer because of then 2 idiots and it makes the person who really needs them they give them a hard time even when you have real proof of your pains . Did you know on a good night for me i wake up in pain 4 times thats a good night . On a bad night i wake up every hour on the hour 1 or 2 times a hour and thatts with me taking 2 sleepin pills on top of it .

    2. jeff newheisel says:

      OK, how about we refer to them as “partners in crime” instead.

  3. Lucy says:

    Kudos Mary. Details matter. Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem. I don’t think enough people even know about it. Some are even in denial. We as a society are too quick to pop a pill to solve a problem instead of looking at non medicinal remedies. Regular and progressive exercise increases our pain tolerance levels so that we can reduce any pain medication needs. Of course it’s important to demonstrate good form and a sensible exercise plan to prevent injuries. It’s not difficult if you approach it intelligently and thoughtfully. People are a lot more capable than they might give themselves credit for. You should trust the experts versus someone that just acts like one – someone with authenticated credentials. It’s what I do and it’s been working.

  4. Cynic says:

    All we have to do is watch 30 minutes of TV to understand we are a drug addicted society,And that the Drug companies are addicted to the obcene profits.
    Commercial after commercial for drug after drug. These incessant commercials are not free so the Media shares a great deal of the blame.
    I am waiting to hear the discalimer ‘ If taking this drug results in your Death stop taking and call your Doctor.”

  5. emom says:

    I am so glad I am not addicted to any drugs, actually hate taking any meds ,, rather do with out , dont smoke, only drink once in awhile, and have no need for all that enhancement stuff, what do people see in it,,, so senseless

  6. Tiffany Smith says:

    I have known numerous people who are addicted to pain pills. They all feel pain and when they take their pills they dont. Amazing right? Not so much. I also know people who are in pain everyday of their lives and refuse to take them. My point is, you may take pain pills at first for pain, but then you become highly addicted and cant live without them, because they take away even everyday pain. They should crack down on pain pills. They have messed some of the closest people in my life up, my mom and my sister. They have been addicted for years now. I’am not saying people that need them shouldn’t take them. How do you know you really need them if you dont try to live without them?

  7. Red says:

    so much for a commie medical degree

  8. emom says:

    I dont need to feel what it is like to be addicted to anything, I have seen it,first hand, senseless and selfishness on those I saw. they gotcaught up in something they felt they could handle,, and anyone that tried to help was unable to .. Growing up and seeing them set me on a path of the straight and narrow, never touching the stuff .. thank god for my own strength to know better, Oh and pain , been there but refused the pain meds as I knew if I even started them I could potentially get hooked, worked thru the pain with alternatives treatments and physical therapy. there are always alternatives, you just have to want to try it before getting on the drugs,

  9. Cynic says:

    Does pain Medication have to be addictive?….I would assume the drug companies would want to develop some that aren’t.
    they is so much study done in pain management but it seems that the result is always a more powerful ,more addictive drug.

  10. city kid says:

    I always thought nurse practitioner’s needed to work under a supervising physician? You can go and open up your own solo practice without one?

  11. teremist says:

    Many good health care professionals, find themselves in a very difficult position. They want to give relief to those with chronic and intractable pain. They do not want to provide meds for addicts. It is a very fine line, determining what is therapeutic, and what is not. There are disparities between standards of practice, and the legal constraints. As a result, many patients that truly need pain management are UNDER medicated. Including those that are terminal. To see medical professionals, abusing their patients, and prescribing meds out of sheer greed, is sickening.

  12. Jacqui-Frank Durante says:

    I am livid!!! I am Dennis’s x wife the mother of his daughter!! This is the first I am hearing that this man was involved with my x husbands death!!
    My daughter has no father!!!

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