North Wildwood physician John Costino has been cleared of criminal contempt.

File photo by Dale Gerhard

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - A Cape May County jury has found North Wildwood doctor John Costino not guilty of violating a judge's orders.

The verdict ends a six-year saga that began in September 2007 when Costino was arrested at his office and charged with dozens of counts of healthcare claims fraud, defense attorney John Tumelty said Monday.

Since that arrest, Costino has been indicted six times on various charges including a 124-count healthcare claims fraud indictment as well as drug distribution. Each of those indictments has ended in either a dismissal or a not guilty verdict.

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The latest indictment charged Costino with criminal contempt, a fourth-degree charge, for violating Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten's orders by talking about the case with the media and his patients. Prosecutors alleged Costino's comments and a 25-page letter he wrote to his patients violated an order to not release discovery related to the drug-distribution case.

Prosecutor Robert Taylor did not comment about the specifics of the case Monday, but he said, "We respect the decision of the jury even if we disagree with it."

Costino had spoken with a local newspaper about the drug case in response to a press release from the county Prosecutor's Office and that led to the contempt charge for which he was indicted in July 2012.

Tumelty said Costino had also written a lengthy letter to his patients explaining his case.

"He did release the records, but he did it in the context of giving his whole defense," Tumelty said.

Costino, who began practicing medicine in Cape May County in 1976, was arrested on Sept. 14, 2007, at his practice on Surf Avenue. He specialized at the time in pain medicine and was also able to treat those with opioid addictions using Suboxone.

Prosecutors said Costino improperly distributed drugs to two undercover officers posing as exotic dancers. The women went to his office on several occasions and their visits were recorded by investigators.

The drug distribution case then went to trial in November 2012 and a jury found him not guilty of nine drug distribution counts and seven health care insurance fraud charges.

At that time, Tumelty said the not guilty verdict was a win for doctors and sent a message that "they should be more concerned about practicing medicine without having to worry about becoming a target for overzealous law-enforcement investigations."

Costino said Monday he did not wish to comment at this time. His license to practice medicine was suspended in December of 2009 and has not yet been reinstated, although Tumelty said he expects that it will be.

Contact Trudi Gilfillian:



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