OC Prosecutors Office Says Tell Us, Not Media Following Manahawkin Doctor’s ArrestRaid Part of Initiative to Lessen Drug Deaths
On Friday, Jan. 24, Dr. Liviu Holca of Manahawkin saw his office and home raided by detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office as he was arrested for illegally distributing prescription drugs, money laundering, and a weapons possession charge on top of a controlled dangerous substance charge. The prosecutor’s office sees the raid as an example of the next step in its initiative that began last year after the rate of overdose drug deaths more than doubled in Ocean County, in part due to an abundance of cheap, pure heroin.
“It’s very important,” said Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. “That’s what (Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato) wanted to do. Last year his focus was getting street dealers – letting them know that that activity won’t be tolerated. In the same range he believes the precursor to heroine addiction are the (prescription) pills, so it was very important to send the message to healthcare professionals that they’ll be held responsible as well.”
Since Holca’s arrest and subsequent onslaught of media coverage, Della Fave said several people have shared stories or information regarding the doctor’s office building, which lies somewhat hidden on Beacon Street in Manahawkin behind the Southern Ocean Medical Center.
Under the condition of anonymity, some Manahawkin residents spoke with The SandPaper during the weekend, describing an unusual practice where lines might form outside the office, awaiting the morning arrival of the doctor.
Della Fave said those who refuse to publicize their name in the media regarding the case are wise to do so as it could affect Holca’s upcoming court case. Instead, he said, give the prosecutor’s office a call.
“I really wish those calls would come to us. We could use that additional information, so we ask if anyone wants to come forward, please do so. Until the thing goes to trial, we have to be very careful.”
On Monday, an initial hearing changed nothing for Holca, who pleaded not guilty and is being held in Ocean County Jail on $225,000 bail with no 10 percent option; that is $75,000 for issuing illegal prescriptions, and $150,000 on the money laundering charge, and possession of a number of loaded handguns and long-barrel weapons on top of a CDS charge for marijuana possession.
Though Holca was charged with illegally prescribing the painkiller Percocet and tranquilizer Xanax rather than the opiate-derivative prescription painkiller oxycodone, for example, which is most often associated with leading to heroin addiction, Della Fave admitted, “I can say a number of undercover buys spoke volumes as to what was taking place,”
He added that the drugs Holca was charged with illegally distributing could also lead to heroin addiction. “Those pills are expensive, and they’re difficult to get. You have to find a doctor. So once that takes place and the doctor goes out of business, these people can’t get what they need for their addiction. A lot of times this will then lead to purchasing heroin from a street dealer, which is pure and cheap right now. You go from $30 to $50 a pill to heroin at $5 a hit. That’s our concern. It’s a tremendous concern.”
The ongoing investigation will look to alleviate those concerns, as detectives scour patient records and speak to patients in the hope of closing the gateway to heroin they might choose to pursue.
Those wishing to contact the prosecutor’s office may do so by calling 732-929-2027, or by emailing DutyDetective@co.ocean.nj.us.
“(Coronato) believes to fight this battle to slow the (overdose deaths), we have to do so on many fronts.” Going after healthcare professionals is just the latest tactic by the prosecutor’s office. Other efforts involve educational forums, one of which was recently held in Manahawkin. New district liability laws recently led to one street dealer’s being sentenced to 7½ years in prison for his part in the death of a South Jersey individual. Raids have been made on schools using search dogs, and information cards are being handed out at funeral homes reminding the loved ones of a recently deceased family member to clean out the deceased’s medicine cabinet. Prescription drop-off programs are conducted; one saw 88 pounds of unused prescription drugs dropped off at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood in just over an hour.
The office has also taken steps to get to the root of the source from which the readily available heroin is coming, issuing a directive allowing its detectives to work outside the county, giving them permission to work with outside agencies to develop their leads.
“We know that we’re a receiving county. Our drugs are coming from Newark, Paterson, Camden, Philly; we know as a receiving county, we’ve got to work beyond our borders to get to the source.”
— Michael Molinaro