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|04-11-03: Santanello's attorneys try to get case
|By BETTY LAWRENCE
The Daily Standard
Three attorneys argued before a judge in the Mercer County Commons
Pleas courtroom Thursday as to why the indictments against Celina physician Dr. Thomas
Santanello should be dropped.
Santanello, 50, of Southmoor Shores, St. Marys, pleaded not guilty in
September 2002 to 214 felony charges lodged against him by a Mercer County grand jury.
The charges include 210 violations of drug laws, including drug
trafficking and illegal prescription processing offenses, and four theft offenses, which
include one count of Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation fraud, one count of theft by
deception and two counts of falsification.
One by one, Santanello's attorneys, Mark Kaiser, David Koerner and
Ralph Buss of Painesville, argued before the judge as to why their motions, ranging from
dismissal of the indictments to disclosure of grand jury proceedings, should be allowed.
The oral pres-entations were heard by visiting Judge Jeffrey M. Welbaum of the Miami
County Common Pleas Court, Troy, because Mercer County Judge Jeffrey Ingraham recused
himself from the case due to having represented Santanello in a legal matter years ago.
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox and Prosecuting Attorney
Andy Hinders, representing the state's case against the doctor, countered.
The affidavits that Celina Municipal Court Judge James Scheer relied on
for the April 2001 search warrant of Santanello's office at 1107 N. Main St. are
defective, Kaiser claimed in a lengthy statement before the judge.
The four affidavits for search warrant were from the Ohio Bureau of
Worker's Compensation, Grand Lake Drug Task Force, Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and State
Medical Board of Ohio.
"They consist of uncorroborated hearsay, false statements made by
law enforcement and failure to set forth facts sufficient for probable cause," reads
the motion by Santanello's attorneys.
The affidavits allege Santanello allowed office employees to perform
medical procedures they were not trained or licensed for, Santanello filed false insurance
claims with the Worker's Compensation Bureau and overprescribed narcotic substances to
Kaiser focused on the affidavit filed by John DeLor, special agent with
the Worker's Compensation Bureau.
"In the affidavit, DeLor specifically mentions seven of Dr.
Santanello's patients. I have interviewed all of them but Jacy Hart, who I haven't been
able to locate, and every one of them said DeLor lied in the affidavit. They say they did
receive the treatments that DeLor is saying they never received and that Worker's
Compensation was billed for," Kaiser said.
Specifically mentioned by Kaiser were patients James Gilbert, Ilse
Warner, Sylvia Flynn, Jack Smith, Carla Daniels and Nancy Glynn.
"We feel their direct contradictions is argument for an
evidentiary hearing. We've been told they used tape recordings and why weren't they
produced. We plan to subpoena the tape recordings in an evidentiary hearing," Kaiser
Kaiser also spoke of Santanello's employee, registered nurse Lynn
In DeLor's affidavit, former employees of Santanello claim they
witnessed Stucke perform carpal tunnel surgery, adjustments, exams and sign prescriptions
at the direction of Santanello.
"When she (Stucke) was interviewed, she said she was trying to
leave the office but they (investigators) wouldn't let her leave. They forced her to talk
to them. This is highly unusual, how can it be construed as legitimate when she couldn't
leave," Kaiser said.
DeLor's affidavit was not the only document that led to the search
warrant, Fox countered.
"It's hard to imagine any basis for dismissal of the charges
against Dr. Santanello," Fox said. "We've got statements from Deputy Barry
Niekamp with the Grand Lake Task Force, the State Medical Board and Pharmacy Board. They
overwhelmingly show probable cause (for the search warrant).
"They must show preponderance of evidence for dismissal and the
only thing they have established is errors on portions of the affidavit. Inconsistent
statements is not enough."
In another motion, Santanello's attorneys asked for dismissal of the
indictments against the doctor.
"The indictment appears to have been obtained for improper
political motives and without probable cause to support the charges," the court
In yet another motion filed by Santanello's attorneys, the defense
maintains disclosure of the grand jury proceedings is necessary to show grounds for the
motion to dismiss the indictment.
The state responded, "The defendant seeks to usurp the secrecy of
the grand jury by speculating the state could not have indicted such a complicated case in
two business days (a special grand jury met for two days before handing down the
indictments). Speculation does not establish a particularized need for a review of grand
"The secrecy of the grand jury is at stake here," Fox said.
Santanello's attorneys also told the judge the State Medical Board has
investigated Santanello and has found no basis to suspend his medical license.
Santanello is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, specializing in pain
management, sports medicine, neurological and spinal disorders. He is licensed to practice
medicine in Ohio until 2004, but has not practiced since closure of his Celina office in
The defendant's motion for change of venue that also has been
filed was not addressed at Thursday's hearing.
Judge Welbaum will announce his decision on the motions at a later
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