SCRANTON - A Wyoming County dentist now faces federal charges he illegally prescribed medications to an Olyphant woman with whom investigators say he had a romantic relationship.
Dr. Christopher G. Bereznak, 48, of Clarks Green, who was awaiting trial on similar charges in Lackawanna County Court, was indicted by a federal grand jury last Tuesday (Feb. 6) on nine counts of unlawful distribution and dispensing of a controlled substance.
In light of the indictment, District Attorney Mark Powell said Wednesday his office will defer to federal authorities and withdraw the state charges filed against Bereznak last summer.
The indictment accuses Bereznak, who has dental offices on Route 6 in Tunkhannock, of improperly prescribing or dispensing medications to the woman in June and July 2016.
Bereznak met the woman the prior May via Craigslist, and they did not have legitimate doctor-patient relationship, the indictment said.
Seven of the nine federal counts involve the medication carisoprodol, a muscle relaxer, and other two relate to prescriptions for oxycodone and diazepam.
The woman is listed in the indictment only as “AG,” but she was previously identified by county investigators as Ashley Gammon, who died July 20, 2016.
Investigators have said her death was unrelated to the medications prescribed by Bereznak.
The dentist was originally arrested in August and charged with seven counts of prohibited delivery of a controlled substance by a practitioner and five counts of criminal use of a communication facility.
A review of hundreds of text messages between Bereznak and Gammon showed a pattern of the woman requesting carisoprodol and the dentist responding by phoning in a prescription for her, investigators said in the arrest affidavit.
In October, Bereznak’s attorney, Lawrence J. Kansky, filed a motion in county court seeking the dismissal of most of the charges against the dentist because carisoprodol was not a controlled substance under Pennsylvania law during the period when alleged crimes took place.
Although carisoprodol has been on federal controlled substance list since 2012, the commonwealth did not add the medication to its schedule of controlled drugs until Aug. 8.
On Wednesday, Kansky disputed the contention there was no doctor-patient relationship between Bereznak and Gammon.
A county detective stated both in the original arrest affidavit and during testimony at Bereznak’s preliminary hearing in September that Gammon was a patient, he said.
“She was a patient of my client and he prescribed what he was allowed to prescribed under his licensure with the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he said.
The federal indictment was not entirely unexpected.
In asking President Judge Michael J. Barrasse late last month to postpone both a hearing on Kansky’s outstanding motion and Bereznak’s trial, Assistant District Attorney Drew Krowiak said the U.S. Attorney’s Office was reviewing the allegations against the dentist.
In August, the state Board of Dentistry suspended Berenznak’s license pending a hearing. It was not clear Wednesday whether a hearing has been held.