Here’s how the discovery of a dead body in Wythe County stopped a doctor’s opioid distribution scheme
Doctor allegedly had arrangement with patients to give opioids to his wife
By Ashley Curtis
August 19, 2020
Psychiatrist David Lelio
ABINGDON, Va. – What started with the discovery of a dead body in Wythe County has progressed to two guilty pleas in federal court.
A Charlotte, North Carolina-based psychiatrist and his wife pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges that they conspired to illegally distribute prescription opioids to patients in Virginia, some of whom lived in Wythe County.
David Lelio, 57, and Nadja Kujanson-Lelio, 50, appeared in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, each pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute prescription opioids, specifically oxycodone.
Lelio also pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen.
Between 2016 and 2019, the couple admitted that Lelio wrote more than 60 prescriptions for oxycodone to patients and that these prescriptions did not have a legitimate medical purpose.
Lelio wrote prescriptions for patients with the understanding that some or all of the prescriptions would be shared with his wife, according to Cullen.
Cullen said the couple would reimburse patients for the cost of filling the prescriptions.
During the investigation, Lelio lied to law enforcement when he said there wasn’t an agreement with any of his patients to give some of the opioids to his wife, according to Cullen.
What sparked the investigation that led to their arrests and Wednesday’s guilty pleas began in Wythe County in 2019.
On February 14, 2019, deputies found 63-year-old Michael Miles, of Charlotte, North Carolina, dead inside a home in Wythe County, according to the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office.
When deputies searched the home, they found multiple prescriptions, specifically oxycodone, for Miles prescribed by Lelio.
As deputies continued searching the home, Lelio and his wife arrived at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators considered it to be uncommon that a psychiatrist would prescribe medication and began a multi-agency investigation including local, state and federal agencies.
In Nov. 2019, Lelio and his wife were arrested in Santa Rosa County, Florida, according to The Pensacola News Journal.
The paper identified Lelio as a Gulf Coast Veterans Affairs doctor.
The report also includes a statement from the Gulf Coast VA Health Care System that claims Lelio had only been employed by the VA for 23 days and had not seen any patients, prescribed any medications or accessed any patient records.
The paper also touched upon what happened to Michael Miles, stating his cause of death was an “acute fentanyl and heroin intoxication.”
Both Lelio and Kujanson-Lelio will be sentenced on Dec. 10.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, Wythe County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration collaborated on the investigation of this case.