Former North Wildwood doctor John Costino, left, who is charged with insurance fraud and drug distribution, sits with attorney John Tumelty during a pre-trial hearing on Jan. 3.

Dale Gerhard

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Jury selection begins today in the case of a North Wildwood physician charged with prescribing drugs to two undercover officers posing as exotic dancers.

The charges of drug distribution and health care claims fraud involve John Costino allegedly writing prescriptions for painkillers for two undercover Cape May County investigators posing as exotic dancers even though prosecutors say he did not give the women complete medical examinations.

Costino, who at the time of his arrest specialized in pain management, geriatric medicine and treating heroin addiction, is charged with nine counts of illegal drug distribution, a third-degree crime, and seven counts of health care claims fraud, a second-degree crime.

Costino, 68, was arrested Sept. 14, 2007, at his Surf Avenue office in North Wildwood. His license to practice medicine in New Jersey was revoked in December 2009. He had been practicing medicine for about 36 years.

Defense attorney John Tumelty said that more than 300 potential jurors have been asked to report this week and jury selection is expected to be completed by the end of the week. Opening arguments are expected to be heard Oct. 15.

“It’s been five years. He’s just happy that the trial is finally here and we get to address these charges,” Tumelty said.

Tumelty attributed the delay from the 2007 arrest to trial to a combination of factors, including changes in which prosecutor was handling the case and a series of pre-trial motions that required much of the court’s time. Assistant Prosecutor Dara Paley, the fourth prosecutor to have the case, will present the state’s case.

The trial is expected to last about three weeks, Tumelty said.

The charges involve multiple counts of distributing a controlled dangerous substance (Percocet, a painkiller) to the two female undercover officers who visited Costino's North Wildwood medical practice on Surf Avenue between April and August 2007. He is also charged with health care claims fraud.

Two previous indictments against Costino were dismissed because a judge found the grand jury presentations lacking. A July 2009 indictment was dismissed due to a lack of specifics, and a second indictment was dismissed after a judge determined that prosecutors presented incorrect information to a grand jury.

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