Feds: Doctors, pharmacist illegally prescribed millions of opioid pills

NEW YORK (AP) — Five doctors, a pharmacist and three medical assistants were among 10 defendants charged with taking in more than $5 million by illegally prescribing millions of oxycodone pills to patients, including apparent drug addicts, who had no legitimate medical need for them, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Thursday.

"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 in a statement.

The doctors worked out of offices in Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester County.

At the Staten Island office of Carl Anderson, 57, crowds of noisy people stood in line at all hours of the night seeking prescriptions for oxycodone pills, the indictment said. Sometimes his neighbors called police.

Several of his patients, including two of his employees, died of overdoses, prosecutors said. Information on Anderson's lawyer wasn't immediately available.

Another doctor, Dante Cubangbang, 50, and nurse practitioner John Gargan, 62, operated out of a medical clinic in Queens and allegedly prescribed 6 million oxycodone pills to individuals they knew did not need the medication. The indictment said they prescribed more than twice as many oxycodone pills that were paid for by Medicare and Medicaid than the next highest prescriber in New York.

Anthony Pietropinto, 80, a psychiatrist residing in Manhattan, wrote thousands of medically unnecessary oxycodone prescriptions in exchange for $50 to $100 in cash per visit, according to prosecutors who said he rented office space after hours and instructed his patients to not fill prescriptions at large chain pharmacies because they would call and question him.

A pharmacist in White Plains, Marc Klein, filled thousands of oxycodone prescriptions, "including prescriptions filled by a customer in multiple variations of his name and date of birth, and prescriptions filled in the names of individuals who never were present in the pharmacy," according to prosecutors.

Klein admitted that he and his employees could be called "licensed drug dealers" because "oxy pays the bills," prosecutors said.

Efforts to identify lawyers for Cubangbang, Gargan, Pietropinto and Klein were not immediately successful.