A prominent Florida oncologist was arrested last month and some in the medical community are puzzled.
Michael Dattoli, MD, radiation oncologist and chief medical officer at Dattoli Cancer Center in Sarasota, Fla., Has been charged with prescription and insurance fraud, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
The charges include three counts of fraudulent possession of a controlled substance, three counts of criminal use of personal identification information and three counts of insurance fraud.
Dattoli was arrested on December 16.
According to investigators, a former Dattoli Cancer Center employee alleged that Dattoli filled prescriptions for diazepam (Valium) three times on behalf of his wife using information from another health care provider.
Some experts find it strange that a doctor of his stature would eventually indulge in such a transgression – a relatively minor fraud with serious consequences.
“He’s a well-respected doctor who’s done a lot of good in the community, and it just doesn’t make sense,” said Jay Wolfson, PhD, JD, professor emeritus of public health medicine and pharmacy and vice president associate. for Health, Policy, and Safety Law at the University of South Florida, Tampa. “It’s low level fraud, and not like he’s laundering money or being involved in pill mills, which has been problematic in Florida.”
According to recent reports from local news agencies, in August 2021, Sarasota Police contacted investigators from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Pharmaceutical Diversion Unit regarding a prescription fraud dating back to 2019 and 2020 involving Dattoli and a “victim”.
The victim, a former employee of the Dattoli Cancer Center, had quit his job at the end of 2020 after 5 years. His name and position at the cancer center were redacted in the arrest warrant, but the warrant mentions that he treated patients while he worked at the center.
The former employee told police that when checking the Florida prescription drug database for controlled substances in September 2021, he noticed that several fraudulent prescriptions for diazepam – a controlled substance – had been seized. from 2020. The recipient was Dattoli’s wife Rita Beatrice Dattoli, but the former employee said he never authorized these prescriptions and Dattoli’s wife had never been his patient.
In September 2021, police obtained copies of several prescriptions from local pharmacies that were called up throughout 2020 by the Dattoli Cancer Center. The prescriptions were filled and collected the same day by Dattoli himself, whose identity had been verified by his driver’s license.
Dattoli’s wife, who was questioned by police in October 2021, said she had never been a patient at the center, the order was not hers, and she never had used the prescribed medication.
A month later, Sarasota Police subpoenaed bank statements that matched accounts owned by Dattoli, which showed the same dates, the same total purchase price, and the same stores where fraudulent orders had been filled, collected and purchased.
None of this really makes sense, Wolfson said Medscape Medical News. “Any doctor who needs Valium doesn’t have to fake a prescription, they can get it from any of their colleagues,” he noted. “And why did you put it in his wife’s name? He also submitted it to his insurance, which leaves more paper trails. And he didn’t need to have insurance for that – Valium is a very cheap drug. “
Further, Wolfson added: “I know people who have been treated by Dr Dattoli and they have nothing but good things to say about him – he is a great doctor with a great bedside manner. is a virgin, he’s never been reprimanded, he’s built a successful practice, and then this thing drops from the sky by parachute. “
The investigation is ongoing and detectives from the Sarasota Police Department have said they “believe there may be other victims.”
Dattoli was released the day after his arrest on $ 1,500 bail. His arraignment is scheduled for January 22. If found guilty, he could face a jail term, fines or even lose his license to practice medicine.
Wolfson added that the arraignment is the first step in the process. “But even if it can be determined that he forged a signature, I don’t think that will reach a level where his license will be revoked,” he said.
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