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Montclair internist convicted for role in oxycodone street ring

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A federal jury in Newark today convicted a Montclair internist for his role in a conspiracy that put tens of thousands of oxycodone pills on the street.

Jurors after two days of deliberations found 59-year-old Michael Durante guilty of 16 of the 17 counts he was charged with — one of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and 15 of unlawfully distributing it — following a nearly three month trial is U.S. District Court.

Among the evidence that emerged at the trial: Between 2009 and March 2011: Durante regularly sold oxycodone prescriptions to a pair of distributors who each had a “stable of patients” they brought to his Nutley practice.

Escorted by Andre Domando, 48, of Belleville and 61-year-old Dennis Abato of Lakewood, the customers received prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone that would ultimately be sold through a street network.

Both Domando and Abato have each pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme and are awaiting sentencing.

Infiltrating the ring, the government produced several undercover recordings of Durante at work. In one, jurors heard him say: “I just know because my friend does the same thing you do. He sells these for a thousand to twelve hundred dollars a bottle.”

Durante, referring to prescriptions he provided to Domando over the previous week, then said: “[s]o two last week, four this week – you should have six thousand dollars in your pocket.”

“I know what people do with these things,” Durante said on the recordings played by federal prosecutors. “You gotta have at least twelve, fifteen thousand dollars,”

They also recorded him accepting $300 from Domando in exchange for prescriptions, as well as $100 for an extra prescription he sold to an undercover agent.

Among the witnesses who testified during the trial was one who said that he delivered envelopes of cash to Durante in exchange for extra prescriptions.

Durante also falsified medical records in patients files — most times by omitting from progress notes the additional scripts he sold to them. At other times, he “falsely wrote that prescriptions had been provided to replace lost prescriptions – including noting on one occasion that a dog may have eaten one of the prescriptions,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a release early this evening.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Durante could face up to 20 years in prison, although it’s likely to be far less than that. He also could be fined $250,000 on each conviction.

A sentencing date wasn’t set.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Stanley R. Chesler scheduled a hearing tomorrow on the government’s bid to have Durante forfet $300,000 in cash seized at his home.

Fishman credited the New Jersey DEA Tactical Diversion Squad, made up of DEA special agents, diversion investigators and intelligence analysts; FBI and IRS special agents; and law enforcement officers from the Essex County Sheriff’s Department and the Elizabeth, Clinton Township (Hunterdon County), Toms River and Newark Police Departments with the investigation leading to today’s conviction.

Represnting the government were Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Mahajan and Osmar J. Benvenuto of Fishman’s Criminal Division in Newark.

Durante’s defense attorneys were Cathy Fleming and Harold Ruvoldt.

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