WILKES-BARRE - A Wyoming County dentist charged with illegally prescribing controlled substances to a woman was nothing more than a drug dealer who fed the woman’s addictions so he could carry on a sexual relationship with her, a federal prosecutor said in the opening statement at his trial Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Olshefski said Christopher Bereznak knew there was no legitimate purpose for the prescriptions he wrote for Ashley Gammon, who died from an unrelated heroin overdose in July 2016. He used “the power of his prescription pad” to induce her to maintain a relationship with him.
“She was a 25-year-old woman who would not give him the time of day but for his prescription pad,” Olshefski said.
Bereznak’s attorney, Larry Kansky, maintains the prescriptions were legitimately prescribed to treat dental issues. Prosecutors jumped to the wrong conclusion and pursued him because of pressure from Gammon’s parents, he said.
“Evidence in this case will show this isn’t just a prosecution ... it’s a persecution. It’s all because a young woman died,” Kansky said.
Bereznak, of Clarks Green, operated a dental office in Tunkhannock. He is charged with nine counts of unlawful distribution and dispensing of a controlled substance for writing prescriptions for carisoprodol, a muscle relaxant, and two other controlled substances for Gammon. He is not charged with Gammon’s death because authorities determined none of the drugs he prescribed contributed to her fatal overdose.
In her opening, Olshefski said evidence will show Gammon and Bereznak met through a social media site. They exchanged 1,000 text messages from June 8, 2016, to July 18, 2016. In some, he talks about how he wants to rip her clothes off and how he would “do whatever it takes” to keep her happy.
Kansky said Bereznak’s relationship with Gammon was social, not sexual. He contends prosecutors misinterpreted the texts and that additional evidence, including emails and Facebook messages, will show that.
Olshefski and Kansky also told jurors they will each present experts, who will provide conflicting testimony regarding the appropriateness of the prescriptions. The trial before Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo is expected to conclude Friday.