NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than a dozen people have been arrested and charged in a prescription drug ring in Brooklyn, and a doctor is the alleged ringleader.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, nurses and even a former New York state assemblyman were also caught up in the bust, dubbed “Operation Avalanche.”
“I’m absolutely innocent,” said Dr. Lazar Feygin, 70, of Staten Island. “I don’t know what is going on.”
On his way into court. Dr. Feygin protested the criminal charges that he turned his medical offices into opioid pill mills.
Allegedly, the multimillion-dollar scheme involved thousands of medically unnecessary prescriptions, and shady patient tests and treatments to defrauded Medicare and Medicaid.
When a reporter asked Feygin if all the treatments were necessary, he replied, “Yes sir – absolutely, and we can prove it.”
The doctor was arrested along with 12 others. The Drug Enforcement Administration said it uncovered three “pill mills disguised as medical clinics.”
The ring allegedly put 6 million painkiller pills in the black market, with a street value of up to $100 million.
At one of Feygin’s Brooklyn offices, DEA agents had the place shut down and brought out evidence they had retrieved, while some long time patients stood outside.
“I’m shocked, because I thought they were legit here,” said clinic patient Donald Cunningham.
“I felt something strange about the place, but I didn’t know for sure what was going on — but I didn’t know,” said clinic patient Fatima Bovan.
Prosecutors said it all began in 2013, when a patient blew the whistle on what was going on. The investigation lasted four long years because patient privacy laws got in the way.
“It’s all driven by greed,” said New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan.
Prosecutors said at least some of patients were in on the scheme, to get their own drugs or make money off illegal sales.
“So many of the pills on the black market were being tracked back to these clinics,” Brennan said.
Also charged is former Coney Island, Brooklyn Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, 59. He is in Israel and has not surrendered.
Investigators said he allegedly directed a lab he is now affiliated with to alter drug test results.
“They would get the government to pay them $400 just per cup of urine,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office Associate Special Agent in Charge Will Plummer.
Also charged in the case were Dr. Michael Taitt, 56, physicians’ assistants Marie Nazaire, 59, and Juan Cabezas, 59, nurse practitioner Marjorie Louis-Jacques, 53, physical therapist Reynat Glaz, 43, and office managers Rachel Smolitsky, 64, and Kostantin Zeva, 65, whom prosecutors said all worked for Feygin.
Another doctor – Paul McClung, 57, of Valley Stream – was also charged with running a pill mill in a separate indictment. Also charged in that indictment were office managers Vyacheslav “Steve” Maksakov, 58, and Pavel Krasnou, 37, and physicians’ assistants Abdus Sattar, 59, and Cabezas.
Prosecutors said Feygin operated two Brooklyn clinics – Parkville Health P.C. in Kensington and LF Medical Services of NY, P.C. in Clinton Hill. Both were named as defendants in the indictment.
Charges could include conspiracy, health care fraud, and money laundering. If convicted, Feygin could be sentenced to 25 years in prison.