A former physician who practiced in Henrico County and Fredericksburg was sentence to 57 months in prison Monday for distributing oxycodone and tramadol.
Dr. Zeljko Stjepanovic, 59, pleaded guilty in November to one of 10 counts charging him with distributing the two opioid drugs outside of his professional practice and without a medical reason from 2015 to 2018. The sentence was at the top end of the federal guidelines range.
“The defendant knew what he was doing was illegal and he didn’t care,” Stephen W. Miller, an assistant U.S. attorney, told U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. Stjepanovic was not really running a physician’s office, Miller said. “He was basically operating a vending machine.”
According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Stjepanovic practiced in recent years at two addresses in Fredericksburg and in the 2000 block of Bremo Road in Henrico.
He improperly prescribed pain medications to two undercover female investigators who paid for their visit in cash. Prescriptions were written without any physical examinations and without either woman providing a urine sample.
A government expert’s report concluded that “the blatant falsification of ... medical records revealed in the surveillance media, particularly as it pertains to the illegitimate provision of scheduled medications ... is inexcusable and does not represent any definition of legitimate patient care.”
Miller said patients were being prescribed the powerful, addictive drugs without being examined. Even at least one heroin addict—who Stjepanovic knew through drug screening was using heroin—was written prescriptions.
Miller said authorities first learned of the doctor’s illegal activities from pharmacies concerned about the prescriptions he was writing.
Stjepanovic’s lawyers with the public defender’s office said that Stjepanovic is a U.S. citizen who received his medical degree in Serbia in 1984. He has since lost his license to practice medicine.
They pointed out that he has no prior criminal record, has serious medical problems and suffers from PTSD as a result of his performing wartime surgery during conflict in the Balkans in 1991-1992.
“He’s lost everything,” Carolyn V. Grady, one of Stjepanovic’s lawyers, told Hudson. “He made some grave errors that have ended the life that he had,” she said, in asking for a 46-month sentence, at the low end of the guideline range.