Doctor forced patients to share opioids with his wife, writing unnecessary prescriptions and causing at least one death.
Over a three-year period, David Lelio, a Charlotte, North Carolina, physician funneled thousands of powerful opioids to his wife by forcing a father and son to share the drugs that he improperly prescribed for them, according to court documents.
Then, Michael Miles, the father, 63, died. He was discovered February 2019 inside his home. An autopsy would reveal he passed from an overdose of fentanyl and heroin. During an eight-month investigation into the matter, officials found syringes, heroin, prescription opioids and unfilled prescriptions all in Miles’ name. They also found his driver’s license, which actually had the address of his doctor, not his, on it.
When the investigation was complete, Lelio was arrested along with this wife, Nadja Siiri Jujanson-Lelio. Both were charged in Virginia federal court with “unlawful distribution and dispensing of a Schedule II controlled substance.” Dr. Lelio has also been charged with “lying to federal investigators about his role in the alleged prescription-drug conspiracy between him, several of his patients and at least one south Charlotte neighbor,” according to court records.
“As alleged in the indictment, this physician diverted prescription opioids without a legitimate medical purpose and was untruthful with federal investigators about his misconduct,” U.S. Attorney Cullen said. “We will continue to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of health-care providers who engage in illegal drug distribution.”
The physician has denied any wrongdoing. However, investigators contend the Lelios’ conspiracy dates back to at least 2016 when the practitioner started writing prescriptions for Joseph Miles and his father. Joseph told investigators “he met the Lelios at a Halloween party in either 2012 or 2013 and later worked on their home.” He said he “formed a friendship with the couple before becoming David Lelio’s patient in 2016 and sometimes lived at the couple’s south Charlotte home.” Joseph also told investigators the doctor never performed any examinations during his office visits, but after he was in a car accident, Lelio agreed to write him prescriptions for opioid painkillers.
Miles said Lelio “agreed to increase the amount of the drugs he prescribed if he kicked back half of the painkillers to Nadja,” documents show. He also said he “assumed David Lelio would cut off his painkillers unless he agreed to share.” Around that same time Michael became a patient and Nadja allegedly complained that she had to split her drugs with both men, getting smaller amounts herself.
Investigators found the men would make the 130-mile drive to Charlotte from their home in Virginia to drop off Nadja’s share of the prescriptions or pick up some drugs from her. The Lelios also regularly drove to a Walgreens’ pharmacy in Mount Airy, where Lelio’s prescriptions were filled, and this became a regular meeting point.
Beginning in July 2016, David Lelio wrote 64 Oxycodone prescriptions for Joseph and Michael Miles for nearly 4,000 doses, according to prosecutors. The last prescription to the father was written on February 13, the day before Michael Miles died.
Joseph Miles’ cell phone revealed hundreds of texts and phone calls between him and the doctor’s wife, Nadja, including the following:
“Hope you are close, turning my phone off, will put your pills in your room w/everything else. Go TEAM DAVE!” Nadja texted to Joseph. He responded: “Can you unlock the door. I’ll be there in 30.”
In a reference to Miles and his father, she replied: “Hopefully the 6 and the other I think it was 26 will take u two through Monday. I hope it’s OK, I kept 2 pinks and 1 blue for myself.”
Two weeks later, when investigators searched the Miles’ home in Virginia after the father’s signature,” according to documents.
Asked about his qualifications to prescribe powerful and addictive painkillers, court records show Lelio said he had “read several pamphlets on pain management and feels comfortable with it.”