TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”) today announced that an Ocean County physician convicted of illegally distributing highly addictive opioid painkillers with no medical justification has been permanently barred from prescribing controlled dangerous substances (“CDS”) in the state.
Dr. Liviu T. Holca, who practiced family medicine in Manahawkin, agreed to permanently forfeit his CDS prescribing privileges to resolve a Complaint filed by the State in the wake of Holca’s 2014 arrest on charges of illegal drug distribution, money laundering, and weapons offenses in connection with his medical practice. Holca’s license was temporarily suspended following his arrest and he has been barred from practicing medicine since that time.
Holca’s arrest came at a time when Ocean County’s opioid overdose death rates were among the highest in the state.
“There is no doubt that Dr. Holca’s reckless prescribing of opioids helped fuel an addiction crisis that Ocean County is still struggling to overcome,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The permanent revocation of his CDS prescribing privileges may offer little consolation to the families who lost loved ones to the addiction epidemic he helped create and perpetuate, but it ensures he will never again be an illegal source of dangerous, habit-forming prescription drugs in Ocean County or anywhere else in the state.”
Holca’s arrest was the result of a joint investigation led by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. During the investigation, Holca wrote prescriptions for hundreds of oxycodone and Xanax pills for an undercover officer whom Holca believed to be a patient. The undercover officer repeatedly told Holca that she did not need the pills for any medical reason, but that she took them because they made her “feel good” and that she also gave them to friends.
In 2016, Holca pleaded guilty to illegal distribution of CDS and money laundering and was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and ordered to forfeit $291,919 from his bank accounts.
“This doctor’s indiscriminate prescribing of opioids not only broke the law, it violated the trust we place in doctors to do no harm,” said Sharon M. Joyce, Director of NJ CARES. “We expect medical professionals to exercise sound judgment in prescribing medication, especially controlled substances that can lead to addiction. As we continue to battle New Jersey’s opioid crisis, we cannot afford to have our efforts thwarted by irresponsible doctors who push highly addictive opioid pain pills into our communities.”
“It’s hard to distinguish Dr. Holca’s actions from that of a street-corner drug dealer. He pocketed large sums of cash in exchange for prescription drugs without conducting physical exams, risking not only the lives of his own patients, but of others within his community as well,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “By permanently revoking his NJ CDS registration, the Board has acted to protect the public from this kind of appalling abuse of prescribing privileges and blatant disregard for public safety.”
According to the allegations contained in the State’s Complaint:
- Holca prescribed CDS painkillers to the undercover officer and other patients, without conducting physical examinations, creating written treatment plans, or performing consultations.
- The NJPMP and other records indicated that Holca repeatedly prescribed CDS to patients who showed various warning signs of addiction or drug diversion. In two cases, insurance or pharmacy benefit management companies warned Holca about the drug-related activities of specific patients. One company repeatedly notified Holca that a patient had obtained opioid narcotics from several pharmacies and multiple physicians. Even after receiving these notices, Holca continued to prescribe CDS to the patient.
- In another example, a patient repeatedly made excuses to ask for additional prescriptions – such as telling Holca that his prescription had been “stolen,” “left in stolen luggage,” or “washed in the laundry.” Holca continued to prescribe to this patient.
- In still another example, a note in Holca’s file for a patient indicated that Holca had reason to believe the patient was abusing Roxicet, Percocet, and Suboxone, and that he knew or believed the patient was obtaining Percocet from another physician – but that Holca continued to prescribe CDS to the patient.
- Although the undercover officer repeatedly told Holca that she had no medical need for the pills and that she misused them, on one occasion he asked her to provide a handwritten note justifying her need for the pills. He asked her to write that she had back pain, would not operate heavy machinery, and would not hold Holca responsible for problems.
- Holca’s office accepted cash payments from the undercover officer during each visit in which Holca prescribed painkillers. In a search of Holca’s home, police found more $120,000 in cash stashed in multiple envelopes hidden throughout the residence, including inside books, within chairs, under a mattress, in a closet wrapped in bed linens, and behind a framed picture hanging on the wall.
- During the search of Holca’s home, police also found two unlicensed loaded handguns, “long guns,” and twelve bags of marijuana, allegedly packaged for resale. Under the terms of the Consent Order filed on Tuesday, Holca’s NJ CDS registration, which allowed him to prescribe controlled substances in this state, is permanently revoked.
The Board also suspended Holca’s medical license for five years, effective April 8, 2014 – the date it was temporarily suspended by the Board. The Board will not reinstate Holca’s license until he demonstrates that he is fit to resume practice, including by providing proof that he has taken and successfully completed approved courses in medical ethics and medical recordkeeping.
Holca was also assessed a $100,000 civil penalty and $35,695 in attorneys’ fees. In light of the significant criminal forfeiture resulting from Holca’s guilty plea, the Board stayed the entirety of the civil penalty, provided Holca complies with the terms of the Consent Order.
The Division of Consumer Affairs’ Enforcement Bureau conducted this investigation, in partnership with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration through its Camden Resident Office, and the Stafford Police Department.
Deputy Attorney General David M. Puteska, of the Division of Law’s Professional Boards Prosecution Section, represented the State in this matter.