On an August day in 2007, Sgt. Ken Kolich, a detective with the prosecutors office in Hudson County, New Jersey, knew something wasn’t right when he started getting calls from police officers asking if it was true Dr. Joseph Colao was dead. Kolich wasn’t assigned a murder case. Just a routine death investigation.
That was the first hint to Sgt. Kolich that Dr. Colao’s life and medical practice were anything but routine. But there were many more hints to come. Now there is a lengthy and detailed article by Amy Brittain & Mark Mueller in The Star Ledger describing how Dr. Colao turned his practice into a drug mill that provided anabolic steroids and HGH to cops, firefighters and others. It is the first of three parts.
Today’s article looks at how Colao pulled this off in connection with a Brooklyn pharmacy. It discusses the impact on the health of the cops and firefighters, five deaths that have a connection to Colao’s practice, a possible link to violent episodes on and off duty, and the difficulty officials have had in dealing with the problem. Tomorrow the paper indicates it will report on how a “ex-Harrison firefighter on disability works full-time for N.C. fire department”.
Any attempt to summarize this well researched article doesn’t do it justice. It’s worth reading. Here are a few excerpts including an interview with a retired firefighter who has a different view of Dr. Colao:
A seven-month Star-Ledger investigation drawing on prescription records, court documents and detailed interviews with the physician’s employees shows Colao ran a thriving illegal drug enterprise that supplied anabolic steroids and human growth hormone to hundreds of law enforcement officers and firefighters throughout New Jersey.
In just over a year, records show, at least 248 officers and firefighters from 53 agencies used Colao’s fraudulent practice to obtain muscle-building drugs, some of which have been linked to increased aggression, confusion and reckless behavior.
In most cases, if not all, they used their government health plans to pay for the substances. Evidence gathered by The Star-Ledger suggests the total cost to taxpayers reaches into the millions of dollars.
From the squad rooms and firehouses of Hudson County, word of Colao’s reputation radiated out, town by town, county by county.
It was around 2005 when the first law enforcement officers and firefighters came to Colao for steroids, employees and patients said. Each month brought new faces from new departments. By early 2007, the office had become “a hangout for cops and firefighters,”(Former Colao employee Gladys) Nieves said.
Former Jersey City firefighter Harold Motley had a higher opinion of Colao, calling him a “good guy” who seemed interested in helping him achieve his goal of losing weight.
Motley, who retired earlier this year at age 50, said Colao told him to eliminate pasta and cheese from his diet, then explained how certain medications could change his life.
“He said he was going to give me some stuff to make me feel 18 again,” Motley said. “I took it, of course. He’s a doctor. I’m not going to say no.”
The retired firefighter said Colao gave him prescriptions for AndroGel, a testosterone cream, and Norditropin, a brand of growth hormone. Motley said he had no idea Norditropin was a form of HGH, adding he also didn’t realize it was so expensive, at about $1,100 per month. Motley’s city insurance plan covered the cost.
Today, Motley said he believes Colao did nothing inappropriate, saying the physician enjoyed a stellar reputation among men in uniform because he could help them feel better, get stronger and improve their sex lives.
“In the world of police and firemen, he died a hero,” Motley said.
The Star-Ledger reports 206 New Jersey law enforcement officers and 42 firefighters received anabolic steroids or other testosterone-boosting hormones from Dr. Colao. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers from the fire side
Bayonne Fire Department 2
Edison Fire Department 1
Harrison Township Fire Department 4
Hoboken Fire Department 2
Jersey City Fire Department 27
Newark Fire Department 2
North Hudson Fire Department 3
Paterson Fire Department 1