Doctor faces multiple drug counts
DelBaggio accused of illegally prescribing controlled substances
An Altoona pediatrician is accused of supplying off-the-record opioid prescriptions to her boyfriend.
Dr. Rebecca L. DelBaggio, 46, of 317 Sylvan Oaks Drive, Hollidaysburg, turned herself in to state narcotics agents on Tuesday for arraignment on a 33 counts, including 15 felonies, related to the illegal prescribing of controlled substances to 26-year-old Andrew Smithmyer over a 18-month period.
Investigators contend the married DelBaggio was involved in a romantic relationship with Smithmyer and along with prescriptions gave him about $50,000 in cash as well as a Dodge Challenger.
Smithmyer, who checked himself out a drug rehabilitation facility Monday night, also faces criminal charges.
According to charges filed Tuesday, the state Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation started looking into DelBaggio, who was a doctor with UPMC’s Children’s Community Pediatrics in Altoona, in late January. A check of the Pennsylvania Drug Monitoring Program allegedly revealed the doctor had written 14 prescriptions to Smithmyer between Aug. 9, 2016, and Jan. 16, 2018.
In all, Smithmyer allegedly received seven prescriptions for Xanax and seven for oxycodone. Most of the prescriptions were for 60 pills, and while all the Xanax prescriptions were for 1 mg pills, the oxycodone prescriptions ranged from 5 mg to 30 mg. Four of the prescriptions were for 30 mg oxycodone and for 90 pills each.
Investigators said Smithmyer became addicted and eventually started using heroin. They also received information that Smithmyer was selling pills to pay back some of the money that DelBaggio had given him.
The practice where DelBaggio worked, which is limited to children under 18, did not have any record of Smithmyer as a patient, and investigators allege DelBaggio was bypassing required procedures for prescribing Smithmyer pills, such as checking his name in the statewide database and failing to maintain medical records pertaining to treating Smithmyer.
DelBaggio also deviated from procedures at CCP by handwriting the prescriptions and not entering them into the electronic prescription system, investigators contend.
DelBaggio said Tuesday that she is unemployed and has not worked at Children’s Community Pediatrics since late January when the investigation started.
When confronted about the prescriptions by agents earlier this year, DelBaggio allegedly said she met Smithmyer through a mutual friend in 2015. She said Smithmyer was “going through trouble in his life after having medical issues and being released as a professional baseball player after getting ‘Tommy John’ syndrome in his elbow,” BNI agent Matthew Massaro wrote in the charges.
Investigators noted she admitted to have never viewed any of his X-rays or medical records, and when asked if she ever examined Smithmyer, DelBaggio “stated she did exams on him at his house monthly.”
When agents told DelBaggio that they didn’t think she was telling the truth and was withholding information, she allegedly admitted to having stayed in hotels with Smithmyer about 10 times.
When Smithmyer was questioned Jan. 31, he said his elbow sometimes flared up and swelled, but most of the time, it was just painful. He said DelBaggio never examined him, although she may have had a quick look at his injured elbow. He said she gave him Xanax after he was in a car accident in August 2016 and had difficulty sleeping and that anytime he needed painkillers or Xanax, he simply asked her and she would write out a prescription.
He said he sometimes got the prescriptions when they met at hotels, and he even told her what strength to prescribe, according to the charges. Smithmyer said he became addicted after using the oxycodone and turned to heroin.
According to the criminal complaint, Smithmyer also said he used the $50,000 she gave him to “pay bills, buy drugs and pay off debts to loan sharks and bookies.”
Text messages between the two allegedly show conversations about the prescriptions in which DelBaggio said, “It was wrong.” Smithmyer told investigators that DelBaggio discussed with him how it was wrong to write the prescriptions but she continued to do so.
DelBaggio appeared before Magisterial District Judge Daniel DeAntonio on Tuesday morning with her attorney, Brian Grabill.
“We do anticipate some sort of jail time out of this,” Massaro told the judge as bail was being considered. Massaro added that, with the current opioid crisis gripping the state and nation, “This is where it starts.”
Grabill said DelBaggio was not a risk for failing to appear at future court proceedings and pointed out she arrived for her arraignment voluntarily.
DeAntonio released DelBaggio on a unsecured $50,000 bond while acknowledging she faced substantial charges. DelBaggio and her attorney were then allowed to leave by a secured back door to avoid media that waited outside the district court’s public entrance on Fourth Street, where DelBaggio’s car was parked.
Smithmyer, who is currently awaiting trial on charges stemming from a DUI crash, was located Monday afternoon and arraigned on 15 felony counts related to the illegal acquisition of prescription drugs. He was released on a unsecured $50,000 bond.
According to Baseball Reference website, Smithmyer was a pitcher in 2013 in the Frontier League with the Washington Wild Things in Washington, Pa.
DelBaggio and Smithmyer are due to appear at Central Court on March 28 for a preliminary hearing on the charges.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.