New York

Doctors Arrested In New York Prescription Drug Crackdown

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK, June 6 (Reuters) - Federal and state authorities have charged 98 people in New York City and Long Island, including two doctors and a nurse, with trafficking and abuse of painkillers and other prescription drugs, they said on Wednesday.

The charges follow a crackdown on traffickers who stole or forged prescriptions to obtain large quantities of painkillers that could be illegally resold to users, and on doctors and nurses who knowingly helped traffic the drugs, according to Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

"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," Lynch said in a statement of the crackdown that began in February.

"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," she said, referring to two deadly crimes in 2011.

As a result of the federal-state crackdown, a doctor in Great Neck on Long Island was charged on Wednesday with selling oxycodone prescriptions to traffickers for cash.

In a separate case, another Long Island doctor was charged with prescribing 782,032 oxycodone pills between January 2009 and November 2011 to people he knew were addicted to the drugs and without giving a medical examination.

Each physician faces 7 to 20 years in prison if convicted, Lynch said.

The federal prosecutor also announced the settlement of a civil lawsuit against a Brooklyn pharmacist accused of forging oxycodone prescriptions, which called for the pharmacist to pay a $105,000 fine and not sell certain painkillers at his pharmacy for two years.

District attorneys in Long Island and New York City, who have been coordinating their pharmaceutical-crime investigations with the U.S. attorney's office since February, also announced state charges against dozens of individuals involved in the trafficking of oxycodone, klonopin and methadone, including a manager in a doctor's office in Staten Island accused of forging prescriptions for friends.

"Pharmacy robberies, overdose deaths, drugged driving incidents and the illegal dispensation of prescription drugs are all on the rise," Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, said in a statement. (Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Andrew Hay)