M.D.'s Are the New Pain-Pill Crime Wave

Dr. Dealer

The grand jury investigation was triggered when painkiller addict David Laffer shot and killed four people in a Medford, Long Island, pharmacy during a robbery in June 2011. Laffer was sentenced to life for the first-degree murder, and his wife got prison time for robbery.

One of Laffer's doctors was Stan Xuhui Li, a Flushing anesthesiologist running a pain-management clinic. Li had written Laffer scripts for 2,500 pills in the month before the robbery. In all, prosecutors say, Li saw 90 patients a day and wrote 17,000 prescriptions over two years. His patients then actually sold the drugs on the street in front of his clinic. Investigators linked 16 overdose deaths to Li's practice, including drug victim Michael Cornetta , 40, who overdosed twice before pills finally killed him in November 2010. (Li has not been charged in any of those deaths.)

In June, police raided the Woodmere home of Shaikh Monirul Hasan, a 57-year-old Bangladesh-born doctor practicing in Sunset Park. The raid recovered $150,000 in cash and gold bars. Hasan, court papers show, prescribed 3,480 oxycodone pills over two years using the name of a woman who was unaware her name was being used. He also allegedly prescribed drugs to people whom he had never treated or even met.

Over six years, pharmacists complained more than 30 times that Yonkers cardiologist Rohan Wijetilaka (left) was issuing too many prescriptions.
WireImage
Over six years, pharmacists complained more than 30 times that Yonkers cardiologist Rohan Wijetilaka (left) was issuing too many prescriptions.
An undercover cop watched Shaikh Monirul Hasan exchange a prescription for $80. Pharmacists then filled the script without asking for an ID.
WireImage
An undercover cop watched Shaikh Monirul Hasan exchange a prescription for $80. Pharmacists then filled the script without asking for an ID.

Hasan was a family doctor, but he was writing 100 painkiller prescriptions a day. The police sent an undercover into his office and watched him write the woman's name on a prescription in exchange for $80 in cash from a client. Pharmacists then filled the prescriptions without even asking for proof of identity. Of Hasan's conduct, Special Narcotics Prosecutor Brennan said, "There was not even a pretense of delivering medical care."

In July, Rohan Wijetilaka, a 63-year-old cardiologist living in Manhattan but practicing in Yonkers, was accused of illegally prescribing oxycodone, Percocet, and other painkillers over a six-year period. During that span, pharmacists complained more than 30 times that he was issuing too many prescriptions. Some of his patients told police that he sold them prescription drugs if they allowed him to bill their insurance companies for unnecessary tests. In June, his license to practice here was suspended, but someone kept using his registration number to write prescriptions.

That month, authorities across the region put together a series of investigations that led to 100 arrests, including two doctors, a nurse, the owner of a pharmacy and corporation, the manager of a doctor's office, and a phlebotomist (someone who takes blood samples).

One of the doctors swept up in the operation, Eric Jacobson, kept a pain-management practice in Great Neck, Long Island, and was one of the largest oxycodone prescribers in the state. Three of his employees had quit because they believed Jacobson was illegally prescribing the drugs in exchange for cash payments. One of those, a psychiatrist, sent him a text, saying, "You are running an illegal practice, and I don't want any part of it, so I am not returning to work."

Jacobson would see such patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays and often take home between $12,000 and $20,000 in cash. In 2011, one of Jacobson's patients died of a cocaine overdose, one day after receiving a prescription for 240 pills from Jacobson's office. The cause of death was chronic substance abuse.

The DEA raided his office, and Jacobson agreed to give up his license on December 1, 2011. But he continued to operate, allegedly finding another doctor and a nurse to prescribe the drugs to his customers. The new doctor came to believe that Jacobson was purposely serving addicts and people who were reselling the pills. He tried to institute better controls, but Jacobson resisted. The nurse, however, was more cooperative with Jacobson's demands.

Another Long Island doctor caught in the net, William Conway, was charged in Nassau County with illegally prescribing oxycodone between 2009 and 2011. In all, Conway prescribed 782,000 pills in less than two years. His "examinations" involved little more than taking the patient's height, weight, and blood pressure.

When he learned he might be under scrutiny, Conway told a patient he wanted "to review and alter his treatment records to ensure all the treatment dates fit," the indictment alleges.

Two of Conway's patients, Giovanni Manzella and Christopher Basmas, fatally overdosed in 2011, shortly after Conway gave them prescriptions for hundreds of pills. Their patient records showed that Conway had prescribed more than 1,800 pills total for the two men in just a few months.

Conway told investigators that he prescribed the drug to people he knew were addicted without examining them. Conway also admitted he "pre-signed" prescriptions to allow his office aide to dispense the pills as soon as patients entered the office. That aide, Robert Hachemeister, told investigators that a number of pharmacies had questioned the amount of prescriptions emanating from Conway's office, but the doctor ignored them.

Brentwood, Long Island–based nurse practitioner Rools Deslouches, a "pain-management specialist," was also accused of dispensing the drug without performing examinations or asking questions. In all, he wrote 4,300 prescriptions for 422,000 pills between August 2009 and October 2011. Half of his clients were people with criminal records. He typically charged about $200 per five-minute visit in which he wrote a prescription for oxycodone. In one visit, he actually suggested an ailment the patient could claim to have.

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5 comments
MrMxyzpltk
MrMxyzpltk

Enough already. There are human beings who are in great pain due to a number of illnesses. The government's nonsensical "War on Drugs" is causing people who legitimately need pain medications (e.g., opioids) great unnecessary problems. Too many doctors are afraid to prescribe medications that are medically necessary because they're scared of having the DEA show up in their offices demanding to see medical records - not just needed records, but ALL their records. So much for doctor-patient confidentiality. But screw confidentiality when so many people -- police, prosecutors, the narco-recovery complex, criminal enterprises, and more -- are hauling in the cash.

 

I know that there are people who are addicted and need help. I was one of them. I'm grateful to have been alcohol- and drug-free for 30+ years and still attend 12-step meetings. But this constant "war" on the latest evil-drug-o'-the-month is insane -- and it isn't working. From 1920 to 1933, the United States government and state governments attempted to ban alcohol. How well did that work? Well, it helped lead to the rise of organized crime, convinced many otherwise law-abiding people that the "law [wa]s a ass -- a idiot" (from Dickens' Oliver Twist), created a spectacular amount of hypocrisy (people who were entrusted with maintaining the law who themselves drank, or who took money from bootleggers, speakeasy owners, smugglers and the like, much the same as, oh, today) and killed a few people here and there. But what are a few deaths when morality is at stake?

 

The majority of medical personnel who prescribe pain medication are on the level. The ones whose pictures grace the newspapers are the exceptions to the rule. As far as this doc having an "alter ego" (current psych jargon calls it "dissociative identity disorder"), I can't help but snicker (although there's the off-chance that it's true). Even if it is true, though, it won't matter. We're at WAR, damn it! Come to think of it, this country is always at war against something or somebody. What would the U.S. do if it wasn't always fighting the latest enemy? Something positive, creative? Nah. Getting angry at an enemy is easier, even if the enemy is non-existent. And the "war" gives the U.S. the right to invade other countries in the name of protecting U.S. citizens who don't want to be protected. O tempora o mores! O bullshit!

nekoman
nekoman

First, I call BS on the Physician that claimed "multiple personality disorder due to sexual abuse by a priest as a child" ! Made-up psychobabble is what that is. She full well knew she was writing those prescriptions, just like all the other "candy store" Drs. out there. You hear of them everywhere you go. And, I'm not being bigoted or racist here only calling it like I see it, most of these Drs. are foreign trained! Greed, greed, and more greed is all it is. They see easy money in it, so they do it.

Second, I'm in a Pain Management program, and have been for six years. I have chronic, severe, intractable pain caused by severe nerve damage from the removal of a spinal cord tumor. I've been told by three Physicians that I will live with pain the rest of my days. I will have to take pain medication for the rest of my days. I have a stimulator implant. I get regular seroid injections, and am getting nerves temporaily destroyed soon, to try and relieve some of the pain. I have a detailed contract with my Pain Management Physician. I must follow it religiously. I am subject to random drug screening. All my medications (narcotic, and non narcotic) are counted every appointment (monthly). I am held accountable for my medications, and their use. At one time I had a daughter that lived with me that is a heavy drug user (severely addicted) and was stealing my medications. I, naively, thought at first that I was taking too many, until I discovered that I had the powerful timed release medication missing. I confronted her. She denied it, of course. I got a lock box, which was promptly broken into, and two pain killers plus anti anxiety medications went missing (large amounts). This got her booted to the curb when she also refused help. Missing medications stopped, but got me into deep shit with my Dr. , and I had to regain her trust in me. Because of the rampant abuse of pain medications in the population, and the greed of a relative few medical professionals, people like myself suffer the consequences! Like HAVING to make 60 mile round trips monthly (on a fixed income) just because the law says certain drugs (time release powerful narcotic pain relievers) have to be WRITTEN paper prescriptions, they cannot be called into, or electronically transmitted to the pharmacy like other medications, including short acting pain relievers which are WIDELY abused and sold illegally, can. So, this not only makes for unnecessary trips, but essentially unneeded Drs. Appointments, too. I follow the rules. I don't abuse drugs. I don't sell drugs. My Dr. is competent, and has high standards and morals. You will never see the addicts, and dealers lined up at her practice! She doesn't do that, and doesn't see those types, they're screened out long beforehand. There's no prescription selling, or handing out for faked, or suggested disorders. My daughter that I mentioned was seeing a Dr. (supposedly a pain specialist} here where I live, much closer than the Dr. that I see. She was obtaining large prescriptions of short acting, and for very powerful (think along the lines of Oxycontin) pain relievers for a supposed diagnosis of "scoliosis". Funny that! We made sure she had regular, yearly physical examinations growing up. Never once did any Physician ever find scoliosis! This is a grown woman that is 5'4" and about 110. No crookedness evident in her posture. No pain evident in her movement. I was a Registered Nurse for 30 years, so I know what I'm talking about. I found out, not only was she taking these drugs, she was also dealing. I also discovered that her Dr. had tried to prescribe fentanyl patches for her "pain", but insurance denied that one! This quack is still practicing, running his "candy store"! My daughter has dropped off the face of the earth after many offers of help to get rehab, she still denies a problem even though she's taken to snorting oxycontin, and the like, but also shooting up heavy shit. I'm in a small city of about 28,000 and the drug problem here is rampant, and so evident among the high school to 30s age groups that it's shocking. You see regular "deals" go down, in the open in front of stores, in parking lots, etc. And, it ain't pot! Pills are the thing here, just ask any younger person, all have used, or are more likely regularly using pain relievers, etc. Too easy for them to get. I've lived in large cities, LA for example, and didn't see drug use like I see it here. It's phenomenal!

jmmartin
jmmartin

Time to throw the baby out with the bathwater: outlaw priests and legalize drugs.

BradForrester
BradForrester

The cannabis community has been successfully weaning addicts off prescription narcotics for at least a decade. Start dumping your big pharma stocks now because when cannabis is legal, the pharmaceutical industry will will see a downturn of monumental proportion!

mbrachman
mbrachman

Damn paginaged articles! I know the VV has to sell advertising to survive, but I am SICK and TIRED of clicking FIVE TIMES to read the important articles. When are the business managers of the VV going to learn that those who read the serious articles not only DON'T look at the ads, we make a concerted effort deliberately to AVERT our eyes from the ads in the marginalia? Free the important articles from the tyranny of business-side-of-the-VV pagination!!!

 
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