NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two dozen people have been indicted in a massive oxycodone distribution ring in the Bronx, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, Dr. Robert Terdiman and 23 others allegedly operated on a scale never seen before.
More than 5 million oxycodone pills were illegally distributed over a three-year period out of Bronx medical clinics, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced in a press release.
Dr. Terdiman is charged as a key figure in the scheme to funnel $90 million worth of the prescription pain pills onto the black market, Cornell reported. He only began working at the clinic 20 months ago, prosecutors said.
“The world of prescription drug trafficking is looking more and more like the world of old-school trafficking in narcotics like heroin, cocaine and crack,” Bharara said in a statement. “The traffickers were supplied with prescriptions by corrupt doctors and clinic employees, dispensed to lower-level ‘pretend’ patients so that massive quantities of oxycodone could be distributed wherever the most money could be made, often in communities hundreds of miles away. This is poison by prescription, and the volume and money allegedly involved would make hardened illegal drug traffickers envious.”
The ring operated out of Astramed, a purported medical clinic with multiple locations in the Bronx, prosecutors said.
“I knew something shady was going on from the minute they opened the clinic,” said Vincent Agbayan who lives above the clinic.
Agbayan told CBS 2’s Alice Gainer the crowds of people were constant and hostile for more than a year.
Dr. Kevin Lowe, who owns the clinic, only paid doctors on staff when they wrote oxycodone prescriptions, according to prosecutors. Patient visits typically lasted just a minute or two, in which one of the doctors on staff would issue a bogus prescription for oxycodone, prosecutors said.
In total, Astramed doctors are alleged to have issued about 31,500 medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone, comprising nearly 5.5 million oxycodone tablets with a street value of up to $550 million.
Terdiman, 68, is accused of writing nearly 19,000 prescriptions for oxycodone — or about 3 million pills — for more than 4,000 supposed patients, according to New York City Special Narcotic Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.
“He was far and away the most prolific prescription writer that we have seen,” Brennan told Gainer.
Brennan said Terdiman had been retired for eight years before coming to work for the clinic. Before his arrest on Tuesday he was seen leaving the Tuckahoe Motor Inn in Yonkers, where he lived, prosecutors said.
A search of his room at the motel turned up a gun and rounds of ammunition, Gainer reported.
The participants in the distribution ring included doctors, clinic employees and drug traffickers who oversaw crews of “patients” who they sent into the clinics in order to obtain medically unnecessary prescriptions, authorities said.
The prescriptions were then filled at pharmacies, and the resulting pills resold on the streets in New York and elsewhere, according to prosecutors.
The drugs were peddled all up and down the East Coast as far south as Georgia, Cornell reported.
On weekdays, crowds would gather outside the clinic waiting for their fraudulent prescriptions, prosecutors said.
The crowds sometimes grew so large that security guards and recruiters would call out the runners’ names on the sidewalk to hand out the prescriptions, prosecutors allege.
“The operation that was running on Southern Boulevard had all the hallmarks of a drug operation. There was security out front, there was a big, long line of people waiting to get into the clinic,” Brennan told Cornell.
Twenty-one suspects were arrested Tuesday and were due in federal court Wednesday.
Terdiman was arrested following a two-year investigation by the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office.
Terdiman is being held without bail and is due back in court on Feb 19.
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