Chief U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced the tearful Dennis Momah on Monday and ordered him to serve three years on probation. Momah had pleaded guilty Jan. 29 to the illegal distribution and dispensation of a controlled substance from Brunswick Wellness, a pill mill that was shut down after it was raided in July 2012.
Momah was the first to plead guilty in the case. Last week, Wood sentenced Natalie Anderson, the clinic’s manager, to five years in prison after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the operation of the clinic, from which physicians wrote 21,000 prescriptions in just seven months.
The owner of the clinic, Roland R. Colandrea Jr., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally dispense drugs and faces a sentence of 10 years and a fine up to $500,000.
Momah’s brother, federal Judge Davidson Momah, said he was the sixth of nine siblings from Nigeria. He described his brother as kind and honest but gullible.
“I used to tease him in a jokingly way, ‘You are the poorest doctor I know,’’’ Davidson Momah told Wood.
Other doctors he knew had big houses and fine cars, “but not Dennis,’’ he said.
His brother also didn’t know what he had done to get in trouble, and it fell to him to explain that he had prescribed drugs outside the normal course of medical practice and in violation of federal law, Davidson Momah said.
“His kind and generous spirit conflicts with his behavior,” Momah’s attorney, Brian McEvoy, contended. Momah got his job through an agency and came from Oregon, where he had been fired after he was wrongly accused of a sexual assault his twin brother had committed, McEvoy said.
While he worked at the clinic, Colandrea and patients threatened him because he tried to cut their massive dosages of addictive painkillers, McEvoy said.
Momah left after a month, but he should have left after the first week, McEvoy said.
Although he agreed that Momah had helped in the investigation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Buerstatte told Wood that Colandrea and Anderson couldn’t have operated the pill mill without Momah and two other prescribing physicians.
“Brunswick Wellness didn’t have doctors acting as doctors. They were drug dealers,’’ Buerstatte said.
Wood gave Momah 45 days to surrender to the federal Bureau of Prisons. That should give prison officials time to decide which facility could treat him for myriad medical issues, including morbid obesity, severe diabetes, sleep apnea and the lingering effects of a stroke.
Two other physicians, Bruce I. Tetalman and Cleveland J. Enmon, are awaiting evaluations before they appear for the disposition of charges against them.