NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Federal and state prosecutors have charged 98 people, including doctors and patients and alleged dealers, in connection with several investigations into prescription drug trafficking.
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch announced the charges Wednesday, along with prosecutors from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, and law enforcement agencies.
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports
Lynch said the investigation focused on alleged dealers called “doctor shoppers” and health care professionals who “exceeded their lawful authority to dispense and distribute controlled substances, did so in bad faith, for no legitimate medical purpose, and outside the usual course of accepted medical practices.”
CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan obtained exclusive video of the big bust. She was there as federal agents raided three medical offices and hauled off evidence, arresting two doctors and a nurse practitioner in the latest dramatic cases targeting alleged professional facilitators in the prescription drug abuse epidemic sweeping Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Baldwin physician Dr. William Conway was charged with issuing 750,000 pills in less than two years to drug addicts, without a medical examination.
Great Neck doctor Eric Jacobson is accused of conspiracy to distribute Oxycodone for re-sale or diversion to addicts. Jacobson had been under investigation after two of his patients died, officials said. He also provided painkillers to Medford pharmacy assassin David Laffer, officials said.
“New York State wants us to treat people in chronic pain. We try to be very careful about it,” said Dr. Gordon Raskin, a colleague of one of the arrested doctors.
But when posed with the fact that, regardless of the state requests, his friend was arrested, Raskin said, “I understand and I think that is a very unfortunate situation.”
In Brentwood, neighbors were stunned as the DEA converged on a nurse’s driveway and took away his fancy red Mercedes. Rools Deslouches is not a doctor but a nurse practitioner who had his other Mercedes packed with luggage to go somewhere. The feds said in just four months he allegedly dispensed thousands of prescriptions for controlled substances to criminals.
“I’ve seen people coming in and out on cell phones, back and forth. This and that. I said, well — ‘cause I’ve been watching the news about the prescription drugs — I said, maybe it has to do with that,” neighbor Nitsa Castro said.
CBS 2’s McLogan spoke with several people who had been treated or confronted the two accused doctors.
“I was just able to tell him I had pain in my shoulder, no proof, no X-ray, and he just wrote me a script: 30 mg Oxycodone, generic of Oxycontin,” said a 24-year-old former patient of Dr. Jacobson. “I started taking Vicodin off the streets, and then I heard about Dr. Jacobson. I was able to go to him as a patient, and he wrote me a script. I had no injuries.”
“My brother passed away Oct. 27 and the last doctors he saw were Dr. Jacobson and Dr. Conway,” Cindy Russo added.
“I called Dr. Conway, yes, and I repeatedly said my son is dead. You killed my son,” Maria Basmas said.
Authorities also said that in less than a month, an alleged doctor shopper from Staten Island was able to get nearly 1,800 pills from eight different doctors in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
“Faced with the growing threat of prescription drug trafficking and abuse, this Office and our partners have joined forces to coordinate our attack against a menace every bit as dangerous as trafficking in cocaine or other narcotics. The stakes could not be higher, as reflected by the murder of four people last June during a pharmacy robbery in Suffolk County, and the December shooting death of a federal agent who tried to stop a similar robbery in Nassau County,” Lynch said in a statement.
Meanwhile in a separate case, a Brooklyn doctor has been indicted on charges he sold prescriptions for Oxycodone by the thousands to addicted patients who used phony identification, according to prosecutors.
At times, Dr. Shaikh Hasan wrote up to 100 prescriptions for serious painkillers in a single day, investigators said. Some of the drugs were then resold on the streets.
WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports
“The only suggestion of concern was he articulated some fear that the drugs might be sold to children who might then overdose on the pills,” said Bridget Brennan, the city’s special narcotics prosecutor.
Hasan is being held on $2 million cash bail.
News of these recent arrests come one day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached a deal with legislative leaders to change how the state monitors such drugs, a measure that has been pushed by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“It’s the fastest growing drug problem in our state and in the country. — They’re the drugs of choice for a whole new generation of abusers,” Schneiderman said Tuesday. “What’s at stake here is thousands of lives, billions of dollars in health care costs. We passed the point several years ago where there was one prescription for narcotic painkillers for every man, woman child in New York.”
The measure would require real-time electronic tracking of prescriptions for painkillers. Doctors would also have to check a patient’s history in a database before prescribing the drugs.
“Without question, this legislative package will save lives – of crime victims confronted by desperate addicts and those who overdose on these drugs,” Assemblyman Dean Murray said in a statement.
Critics say the current system allows addicts and others to go from doctor to doctor for multiple prescriptions.
Despite the doctors’ pleas of innocence, prosecutors called them dangerous. Both were jailed Wednesday awaiting their next appearance in federal court.
If convicted of illegal distribution of narcotics, the medical professionals face up to 20 years in prison.
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