Criminal inditements unsealed October 12, 2022 against a Brooklyn area doctor, three pharmacies and four employees illustrate federal authorities’ continuing war against providers for wrongfully distributing oxycodone or other controlled substances.
The 10-count indictment unsealed charges Dr. Somsri Ratanaprasatporn, her office manager Leticia Smith, pharmacists Bassam Amin, Omar Elsayed, and Yousef Ennab, Michael Kent, Anthony Mathis, and Raymond Walker with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone and related crimes. Smith and Kent are also charged with money laundering in connection with their alleged efforts to hide the proceeds of their illegal oxycodone distribution operation. All eight defendants were arrested this morning and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy.
As set forth in the indictment and publicly filed documents, between December 2018 and October 2022, the defendants operated a drug distribution ring out of a medical practice on Linden Boulevard in East New York, Brooklyn. Together, they unlawfully distributed more than 11,000 prescriptions for oxycodone.
According to the unsealed inditements, the structured drug trafficking ring’s operations started in a doctor’s office and ended with more than 1.2 million dangerously addictive opioids worth $24 million supplied to the streets of New York City,. Ratanaprasatporn, a pediatrician and general practitioner, and Smith, issued the prescriptions; Amin, Ennab and Elsayed filled the prescriptions at pharmacies in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and Kent, Mathis, and Walker oversaw “crews” of sham patients who received medically unnecessary prescriptions. Together, the defendants made millions of dollars from the scheme. During the execution of a search warrant this morning, members of law enforcement recovered several hundred thousand dollars in U.S. currency from Smith’s residence. Law enforcement also recovered two handguns that Kent was observed tossing from a rear door of his residence.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the drug charges, the defendants face up to 20 years’ imprisonment. If convicted of the money laundering charges, Smith and Kent face up to 20 years’ imprisonment for each count.
Oxycodone is a highly addictive opioid used to treat severe and chronic pain conditions. Addition and other abuse often starts from medications prescribed by or otherwise made available by health care providers.
Every year, millions of Americans abuse oxycodone. Misuse of painkillers like oxycodone leads to hundreds of thousands of annual emergency room visits. More than 16,000 Americans died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2020. Oxycodone prescriptions have enormous cash value to drug dealers. For example, one oxycodone 30 mg tablet, which was the dosage prescribed in this case, can be sold by dealers on the street for between $20 and $30 in New York City.
The growing epidemic of abuse of oxycodone and other prescription pain medications have prompted federal and state authorities to partner in their fight against pain medication abuse.
The charges are the result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the DEA. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
Like many other recent prosecutions, these inditements target health care providers profiting off of the illegal prescription or other distribution of oxycodine or other controlled substances.
In announcing the inditements, representatives of each participating agency reintegrated their agencies commitment to continue investigation and prosecuting health care providers improperly distributing controlled substances.
“Doctors and medical professionals have a professional obligation to do no harm, but, as alleged, the defendants callously supplied more than one million pills to traffickers for distribution, resulting in dangerous opioids flooding the streets of this district,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Today’s charges demonstrate this Office’s continued commitment to stemming the availability of illegal drugs and holding to account those who contribute to the epic tragedy that is the opioid epidemic.”
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Tarentino warned the “DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to hold DEA Registrants and other medical professionals to the highest possible standards and also hold them accountable when they knowingly endanger members of the community.”
“With this multi-million-dollar criminal scheme, it’s alleged the defendants made their profits off the vulnerabilities and addictions of their customers throughout New York City. Law enforcement partnerships like those seen here today have been and continue to be an integral part of stopping the flow of highly addictive narcotics into our communities,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Fattorusso.
“Today’s charges show how diverted prescription drugs still fuel the opioid epidemic in New York. The Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement remains resolute in its commitment to work together with our federal and local law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle the criminal organizations that abuse the public’s trust in health care practitioners to move these dangerous and addictive pills from pharmacies to our neighborhoods,” stated BNE Director Vinciguerra.
Along with vigorous investigation and enforcement of providers and others involved in illegal distribution, federal and state authorities also have worked to tighten rules, standards and records keeping requirements for the legal prescription of opioids and other narcotics by physicians and other prescribers and stepped up disciplinary investigation and enforcement of these requirements. Billing for prescriptions of opioids beyond the parameters of tightened parameters also can trigger overprescribing and other allegations. Physician and other prescribers, pharmacists and pharmacies and other health industry participants should use care to establish and ensure they and their staff meticulously follow appropriate protocols and procedures to ensure their ability to defend their handling of opioid and other narcotic painkillers.
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About the Author
Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.
A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care industry legal, public policy and operational concerns.
Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 30 plus year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns.
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