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Doctor filled women’s Snapchat drug requests to get sex and nude videos, Pa. cops say

Joseph Cipriano, a 56-year-old Pennsylvania doctor, was arrested July 18 on felony charges of unlawful prescribing, insurance fraud, welfare fraud, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity and corrupt organization, prosecutors said.
Joseph Cipriano, a 56-year-old Pennsylvania doctor, was arrested July 18 on felony charges of unlawful prescribing, insurance fraud, welfare fraud, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity and corrupt organization, prosecutors said. Montgomery County District Attorney's Office

One of a Pennsylvania doctor’s patients described her feelings about him bluntly: She said she “hit the jackpot” in finding Dr. Joseph Cipriano, according to a criminal complaint.

Cipriano, a 56-year-old doctor in Norristown, Pennsylvania, prescribed the woman drugs that fed her pill addiction after she requested the medication over Snapchat or text, she told a grand jury. During roughly nine years as Cipriano’s patient, the woman only saw him in person about six times, the complaint said. She described Cipriano as “touchy-feely” at appointments, and said his lax prescribing earned him a street reputation for giving “pretty girls whatever they want.”

Other female patients said texts and Snapchats with Cipriano were just one part of larger, even more unethical relationships. He would prescribe the women oxycodone, adderall, benzodiazepines and promethazine cough syrup in exchange for sexual favors, nude photos and nude videos, the complaint said.

Cipriano also billed Medicaid for a handful of office visits and prescribed opioids to a patient who — because she was incarcerated — couldn’t have made appointments or retrieved the drugs, prosecutors said. Friends and family picked up the opioids instead, according to the complaint.

Cipriano and three other Philadelphia-area doctors have been arrested in Montgomery County on charges of illegal prescribing, fraud and more, District Attorney Kevin Steele announced on Wednesday.

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Steele said in a statement that “these defendants were contributing to the heroin-opioid epidemic and making it worse.”

Cipriano was arrested July 18 and faces felony charges of unlawful prescribing, insurance fraud, welfare fraud, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity and corrupt organization, prosecutors said. He also faces eight misdemeanor charges of prescribing to a drug dependent person.

His preliminary hearing is set for Thursday.

One woman said in a written statement that she sent “x-rated” images to Cipriano through Snapchat, and then would get prescriptions or cash in return, the complaint said. He’d leave the money and prescriptions in a mailbox outside his medical practice for her to collect, she said.

Another woman who was drug dependent — and who was Cipriano’s patient for nine years — told the grand jury that the doctor made her uncomfortable during visits when he would “give her hugs, tell her she is beautiful” and rub her back, the complaint said.

The woman testified that she felt she had to send the doctor “provocative images of her body” so that she could keep getting treatment from him.

A fourth female patient, who had been addicted to heroin, also characterized Cipriano as “touchy-feely” to the grand jury, the complaint said. She testified that she spent money Cipriano gave her to buy street drugs, further fueling her addiction. She also said she sent nude pictures of herself to him because she “knew a Doctor would come in handy,” according to prosecutors.

The woman told police she’d performed oral sex on the doctor on “several occasions” during medical exams, prosecutors said.

More than half a million people died between 2000 and 2015 from opioid use. In 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the national opioid crisis a public health emergency. We examine what happens to the human body on opioids.

Another female patient said she sold prescription drugs Cipriano gave them, the complaint said.

Prosecutors said Cipriano has admitted to Snapchatting and texting patients, being in “less than desirable or inappropriate” relationships with patients and writing prescriptions in response to Snapchat requests.

He also admitted to kissing, groping and carrying on a sexual relationship with a patient and giving her drugs in exchange, the complaint said.

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