This Virginia Beach dentist ran an opioid fraud scheme

Gary Hartman (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Western Tidewater Regional Jail)
Gary Hartman (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Western Tidewater Regional Jail)

NORFOLK — A Virginia Beach dentist was sentenced Wednesday to nearly eight-and-a-half years in prison for conspiracy to distribute prescription opioids and muscle relaxant pills “without a legitimate medical purpose.”

Gary Hartman, 48, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in May, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

He faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.

Hartman has been a licensed dentist in Virginia since 2002. From 2014 to 2018, Hartman was involved in an elaborate scheme to prescribe oxycodone pills for his personal use and the use of his “co-conspirators,” which fell into three different categories of individuals, according to court documents.

The first category of co-conspirators were close friends of Hartman since high school. Hartman would write prescriptions for oxycodone to his friends without a legitimate medical purpose, the friends would fill the prescriptions, bring back most of the pills for Hartman’s personal use and keep the remainder for their personal use, according to court papers.

The second category of co-conspirators was another dentist. Hartman and the other dentist would write prescriptions to each other for oxycodone and muscle relaxants for the personal use of Hartman and the other dentist.

The third category of co-conspirators were people who were impoverished. Hartman would promise to perform free dental work on these individuals in exchange for the service of filling prescriptions of oxycodone pills written by Hartman and bringing the pills back to Hartman for his personal use. The conspiracy involved 766 prescriptions written for non-medical reasons and nearly 40,000 oxycodone pills, prosecutors said.

“Unethical doctors have no place in our communities,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Hartman used his medical license to push highly addictive pills throughout our community, and deliberately used addicted close friends, other medical professionals, and impoverished patients to obtain these dangerous drugs. Let this prosecution stand as a warning to other medical professional who choose to engage in similar activity: We will not cease our efforts in bringing these types of pill-pushers to justice.”

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.