Pubdate: Thu, 20 Jun 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Larry King
Bookmark: (Oxycontin)


Richard G. Paolino, the Bensalem doctor convicted of trafficking in 
OxyContin and other prescription drugs, was sentenced today in Bucks County 
Court to a 30- to 120-year prison term.

"It was a great sentence," prosecutor Gary Gambardella said afterward. "He 
will die in prison."

Unrepentent to the end, Paolino, 59, pledged to appeal his conviction and 
sentence. As he was taken away in handcuffs, he told reporters to tell his 
former patients "that I love them and wish I could still be there to treat 

Two years ago, in a bid to pay off creditors in a bankruptcy case, Paolino 
began converting his decades-old family practice into a "pain management 
business," he wrote in a letter to Judge David W. Heckler.

According to prosecutors, Paolino's greed led him to drum up revenue by 
recklessly prescribing OxyContin and other controlled substances to 
patients who didn't need them. At the time of his arrest in March 2001, he 
was regarded as the area's top supplier of ill-gotten oxycodone, an 
opium-like substance linked to more than 200 deaths in the Philadelphia 
area since January 2000.

In portions of the statement read in court, Paolino cast himself as "a 
victim of the OxyContin controversy," and that he had made only 
"non-criminal mistakes in judgment."

It was that lack of remorse, in part, that inspired Judge David W. Heckler 
to impose such a severe sentence. In a withering rebuke of Paolino from the 
bench, Heckler called Paolino's excuses "outrageous," and likened his 
prescribing of OxyContin for relatively minor ailments to "killing a mouse 
with an atom bomb."

Heckler said his sentence exceeded state sentencing guidelines because 
Paolino had "breached a sacred trust." He said he wanted to alert other 
doctors who might be tempted to emulate Paolino "that the courts will treat 
them not as respected members of the community, but as the drug dealers 
they are, or have become."

Paolino had two other doctors, Wesley Collier, 53, and David Harmon, 52, 
sign blank prescriptions for him and submit insurance claims worth $173,892.

Collier was sentenced today to 27 months to 20 years in prison. Harmon, who 
struck a plea bargain with prosecutors, will serve 12 years probation.
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