De­spi­ca­ble docs in huge pill bust

5 held in sale of 6 mil­lion meds tied to ODs, deaths

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY GRA­HAM RAYMAN AND MOLLY CRANE-NEW­MAN

Five doc­tors and a phar­ma­cist are ac­cused of flood­ing the city with mil­lions of painkillers, lead­ing to mul­ti­ple over­doses and sev­eral deaths, au­thor­i­ties said Thurs­day.

Two of the doc­tors, Dante Cubang­bang, 50, and John Gar­gan, 62, along with three em­ploy­ees, al­legedly sold more than 6 mil­lion pills out of their Queens pain re­lief of­fice — the most by far of any doc­tor’s of­fice in the state. The pills — many of them oxy­codone or other opi­oids — were then sold on the street for about $30 apiece. Cubang­bang and Gar­gan reaped $5.7 mil­lion in prof­its, which they shared among them­selves, au­thor­i­ties say.

Carl An­der­son, a 57-yearold Staten Is­land doc­tor, and an as­so­ciate, Arthur Grande, 53, are ac­cused of sell­ing pills out of an of­fice that opened at 2 a.m., and of­ten at­tracted crowds that trig­gered 911 calls for noise.

The wait­ing room grew so crowded his “pa­tients,” some with fresh nee­dle marks, rou­tinely bribed of­fice staff to put them at the head of the line, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors.

Two of An­der­son’s own em­ploy­ees died of over­doses, but An­der­son kept pre­scrib­ing the lethal stuff, pros­e­cu­tors say.

In the end, he had writ­ten pre­scrip­tions for more than 900,000 pills.

Drug deal­ers from around the North­east would come to the city to buy from the twisted doc­tors, au­thor­i­ties say. Some would use “crew chiefs” to re­cruit peo­ple to pre­tend to be in pain in or­der to get more pre­scrip­tions. Many of the med­i­cal vis­its lasted no more than a few min­utes and in­volved no ac­tual med­i­cal in­spec­tion.

Medi­care and Med­i­caid paid out mil­lions for the il­licit pre­scrip­tions.

“These doc­tors and other health pro­fes­sion­als should have been the first line of de­fense against opi­oid abuse, but as al­leged in to­day’s charges, in­stead of car­ing for their pa­tients, they were drug deal­ers in white coats,” U.S. At­tor­ney Ge­of­frey Berman said. “They hid be­hind their med­i­cal li­censes to sell ad­dic­tive, dan­ger­ous nar­cotics. It’s hor­ren­dous. I’m out­raged by it.”

Berman noted that 49,068 peo­ple died of over­doses in the United States in 2017 — or 134 peo­ple a day, lead­ing to a de­cline in aver­age life ex­pectancy for Amer­i­cans. The city Depart­ment of Health has said more than 1,500 peo­ple fa­tally over­dosed just in the city last year.

“Our en­tire coun­try is suf­fer­ing through an opi­oid abuse cri­sis, and we need to do every­thing we can to save as many lives as pos­si­ble,” NYPD Com­mis­sioner James O’Neill said, hail­ing the ar­rests.

An­thony Pi­etropinto, an 80-year-old Man­hat­tan psy­chi­a­trist, is ac­cused of writ­ing thou­sands of un­nec­es­sary painkiller pre­scrip­tions af­ter hours for $50 to $100 a pop. He would tell pa­tients to avoid fill­ing them at large chain phar­ma­cies to avoid law-en­force­ment at­ten­tion, pros­e­cu­tors say. He of­ten put the cash from these trans­ac­tions into a wad of money in his socks.

Pros­e­cu­tors said he kept writ­ing the pre­scrip­tion to peo­ple who were vis­i­bly high, and that he knew of at least one pa­tient who died of an over­dose.

Dr. Nkanga Nkanga, 65, an­other Staten Is­land doc­tor, wrote thou­sands of need­less pre­scrip­tions for more than $500,000 worth of pills with­out even an ex­am­i­na­tion, pros­e­cu­tors al­lege.

And Na­dem Sayegh, 64, who had of­fices in the Bronx and Westch­ester County, con­spired with a sec­ond per­son, writ­ing pre­scrip­tions for 50,000 pills us­ing vari­a­tions of the other per­son’s name and rel­a­tives’ names. In ex­change, he got cash, pricey meals, high-end whisky, cruises and an all-ex­pense­paid trip to Puerto Rico, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties.

Sayegh also or­dered med­i­cal equip­ment and had it shipped to his of­fice, then resold it or sent it over­seas for profit, au­thor­i­ties charge.

Marc Klein, a 47-year-old phar­ma­cist in White Plains, filled pre­scrip­tions and fal­si­fied re­ports to state au­thor­i­ties, pros­e­cu­tors say. In re­turn, he got free meals and at least one all-ex­penses-paid va­ca­tion to At­lantic City. At one point, he re­ferred to him­self as a “li­censed drug dealer be­cause Oxy pays the bills around here,” ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties.

All 10 peo­ple sus­pects were ar­rested be­tween late Wed­nes­day and early Thurs­day and charged with con­spir­acy to distribute con­trolled sub­stances. They each face up to 20 years in prison.

The ac­cused doc­tors — who in­cluded Dante Cubang­bang (in­set) — and a phar­ma­cist ped­dled $5.7 mil­lion worth of oxy­codone and other opi­oids, au­thor­i­ties said.

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