Nurse Practitioner Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Drug Distribution
Also Agrees to Pay $200,000 to Settle Civil Claims
ALBANY, NEW YORK – Danielle Simonson, age 51, of Fort Ann, New York, pled guilty today to distributing controlled substances outside the course of professional practice and for no legitimate medical purpose.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman; Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division; and Special Agent in Charge Naomi Gruchacz, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations.
Simonson admitted that from at least January 2020 through October 2022, she unlawfully prescribed controlled substances to a total of 54 patients. These included prescriptions for the opioids hydrocodone and oxycodone, benzodiazepines (clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam), and amphetamine (e.g. Adderall). For instance, Simonson admitted that she issued a total of 63 oxycodone prescriptions to two residents of Suffolk County, New York, without treating either of them for a medical condition. The Suffolk County residents usually paid Simonson by mailing her packages of cash.
In the civil settlement agreement, Simonson admitted that she improperly prescribed controlled substances to 105 patients (including the 54 listed in her criminal plea agreement), often without ever examining patients and maintaining medical records justifying her decision to prescribe controlled substances. Simonson agreed to pay $200,000 to settle claims that the United States could have brought against her pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act.
In the criminal case, sentencing is scheduled for December 15, 2023 before United States District Judge Anne M. Nardacci. Simonson faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million, as well as up to 3 years of post-imprisonment supervised release. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.
Simonson’s plea agreement requires that she immediately surrender her nurse practitioner and nursing licenses to the State of New York. On December 8, 2022, Simonson surrendered her DEA registration (which had allowed her to prescribe controlled substances).
The DEA and HHS-OIG investigated the criminal case, with assistance from the New York State Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett is prosecuting the criminal case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Moran represented the United States in the civil matter.