Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Sam Nocille was angry.
A leader of the outlaw motorcycle club known as the Pagans, Nocille was in prison in 2013 while associates continued to profit from a pill mill operation authorities say he helped set in motion.
The problem was that those associates had stopped kicking up to Nocille who had been receiving about $2,000-week, his share from the illegal street sales of oxycodone, methadone, Xanax and Percocet.
"All of a sudden he's changing the whole fuckin' thing," Nocille said in a phone call to his wife in which he complained about Peter Marradino, an associate who was part of the scheme. "It's not gonna happen...The door was opened for him due to me."
In another call, Nocille said of Marradino, "I'm gonna split his fuckin' head."
The Nocille tapes (all prison phone calls are recorded) were played along with several others today in the trial of Dr. William O'Brien 3d whose medical offices, authorities allege, were the nerve center of a multi-million dollar pill mill operation set up by Nocille.
"Even that fat motherfucker Bill in Levitttown is gonna get it," Nocille said in another rant recorded in January 2014. One of O'Brien's office was in Levittown.
The tapes were introduced as evidence as the prosecution tried to establish the connection between the Pagans and O'Brien, a connection O'Brien, who is representing himself, has denied. In his opening statement to the jury on Monday O'Brien said he had patients who were Pagans, but said he was not part of the drug conspiracy that is the basis for a 140-count criminal indictment against him.
Authorities have used the tapes of prison phone calls by Nocille and Patrick Treacy, another Pagan, in an attempt to establish the link between the biker gang and the doctor. Treacy, one of 10 co-defendants who have pleaded guilty, is heard on one tape talking with the girlfriend about the oxycodone and Valium prescriptions he has received from "our friend in Levittown."
Treacy is not cooperating in the case, according to court documents.
But Marradino and several other co-defendants, including O'Brien's office manager Angela Rongione, are listed as potential witnesses. All were named in a sweeping federal indictment that included drug dealing, conspiracy and money-laundering charges. O'Brien is also charged with bankruptcy fraud.
"I ain't being nice no more," Nocille said in one of his last phone calls in which he again complained about Marradino. "I'm done with these fuckin' guys...Making tons of money because of me. I opened the door for him real big."
Authorities allege that O'Brien -- who charged $200 cash per visit -- pocketed $1.8 million in the pill mill scheme while members of the Pagans and their associates made millions more by converting the scripts to pills and then selling those pills illegally.
Nocille never got to act on his threats, however, he died of a heart attack in prison shortly before he was to be released in January 2014. He was 47.
In an attempt to refute the government's claims, O'Brien spent more than two hours cross-examining FBI Agent Diana Huffman, the first witness called in the trial. Huffman, one of the agents who worked the case, will be back for more cross examination when the trial resumes Wednesday morning.
The doctor occasionally stumbled during his first extended examination of the witness, but overall remained on point in a detailed cross-examination that drew frequent objections for relevancy from Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Beth Leahy.
O'Brien came back again and again to a routine DEA monitoring report covering his prescriptions from January 2013 through March 2014. Huffman acknowledged that through "miscommunication" the report was not initially provided to O'Brien as he prepared his defense from prison. The 51-year-old osteopath has been held without bail since his arrest in January 2015.
The report indicated that O'Brien had written 9,890 prescriptions for narcotics during the 15-month period, prescriptions that amounted to more than one million pills. But O'Brien got Huffman to acknowledge that the report concluded with the remark "no violation noted."
This, O'Brien said through his questions, was part of the same time period covered by the FBI investigation that led to his arrest. That investigation began around July 2012.
O'Brien has tried through his opening statement and his questions to distinguish between the DEA and the FBI. The DEA, he contends, is the "expert" drug investigation unit and he seemed to be arguing that since the DEA report found no violation, he should not have been charged.
He also got Huffman to concede that several of the co-defendants in the case who had been prescribed oxycodone, methadone or Percocet had medical problems related to injuries from accidents or, in one case, a bullet wound to the head and in another a bullet that shattered a kneecap.
"If his patients were selling the medications they should be taking, how would a physician know that?" O'Brien asked at one point. A prosecution objection sustained by Judge Nitza Quinones made the question moot.
But the answer is fundamental to his defense.
What the prosecution will try to prove through a host of additional witnesses, including Marradino, several other Pagan associates and O'Brien's own office manager, is that the doctor knew when he wrote the scripts that his "patients," or the Pagans they were working for, intended to sell the pills rather than take them.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.