November 13, 2019
Contact: Public Information Officer
Phone Number: (202) 305-8426
Virginia doctor running scheme to prescribe opioids with no medical purpose, pleads guilty
RICHMOND, Va. – A Henrico man pleaded guilty today to unlawfully prescribing Oxycodone and Tramadol to patients at a Richmond-area pain management practice.
According to court documents, Zeljko Stjepanovic, 58, was a doctor working in a pain management practice, initially in Fredericksburg and later in Henrico County. As part of his plea, Stjepanovic admitted that he wrote prescriptions for numerous patients without assessing the individual needs of those patients, and that his prescribing practices were outside the usual course of his professional practice and were without any legitimate medical purpose.
In addition, on at least two occasions, Stjepanovic prescribed Tramadol for Patient 1, but put the prescription in the name of Patient 2. Before the first instance, Stjepanovic notified both Patient 1 and Patient 2 that he knew what he was doing was illegal, but he proposed doing it nonetheless. On one of these occasions, Patient 1 was not even present when Stjepanovic wrote the Tramadol prescription. At no point did Stjepanovic or anyone working on his behalf ever obtain a medical history for Patient 1, conduct any physical examination or range of motion test for the patient, discuss causes of pain or what might alleviate it, consider any non-medicine based alternative treatments, or obtain or analyze any urine samples. Stjepanovic maintained no records for his treatment of Patient 1 on these two occasions.
On both of the occasions when Stjepanovic wrote a prescription for Patient 1 in the name of Patient 2, Stjepanovic also wrote a prescription for Oxycodone for Patient 2. As was the case with Patient 1, at no point did Stjepanovic or anyone working on his behalf ever obtain a medical history for Patient 2, conduct any physical examination or range of motion test for the patient, discuss causes of pain or what might alleviate it, consider any non-medicine based alternative treatments, or obtain or analyze any urine samples. Nonetheless, Stjepanovic falsely reported in his records for Patient 2 that he had done these things.
In addition, because Stjepanovic was concerned that writing prescriptions for Tramadol and Oxycodone for the same person might alert others to his scheme, he instructed Patient 2 what to tell the pharmacy if questioned about the two prescriptions.
Stjepanovic pleaded guilty to the unlawful distribution and dispensing of controlled substances, specifically, Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, and Tramadol, a Schedule IV controlled substance. He faces a maximum 20 years in prison when sentenced on Feb. 24, 2020. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Field Division and G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen W. Miller and Janet Jin Ah Lee are prosecuting the case.