The opioid epidemic impacting the United States is a horrible ongoing reality. In last week’s blog, we revisited this harrowing topic by covering yet another story about a medical professional worsening the crisis. In that story, oxycodone was the drug of choice for a pharmacist who decided it was worth risking lives for the purpose of turning a profit. This week, we have learned of another case involving the illegal distribution of oxycodone pills.
No less than eight defendants in New York have been charged.
As reported by the Eastern District of New York branch of the United States Department of Justice, the eight accused include a Brooklyn-based medical doctor and three pharmacists. The 10-count indictment charges the defendants with illegally distributing more than 1.2 million oxycodone pills worth at least $24 million. All eight individuals were arrested yesterday afternoon.
It’s important that we revisit the extremely harsh ramifications of oxycodone abuse. It is a very highly addictive opioid used to treat severe and chronic pain conditions. As the DoJ informs us, millions of Americans abuse oxycodone each year, leading to hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits. Sadly, more than 16,000 Americans died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2020.
“Oxycodone prescriptions have enormous cash value to drug dealers,” reports the DoJ.
“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.” This is what makes the reported actions of the eight defendants so heinous.
Allegedly, between December 2018 and October 2022, the charged individuals operated a drug distribution ring. They utilized a medical practice on Linden Boulevard in Brooklyn to unlawfully distribute more than 11,000 prescriptions for oxycodone. As noted, this amounted to over 1.2 million oxycodone pills, carrying a street value of at least $24 million.
Among the accused is Dr. Somsri Ratanaprasatporn.
She is a pediatrician and general practitioner. Her office manager, Leticia Smith is accused of issuing the prescriptions. Pharmacists Bassam Amin, Omar Elsayed and Yousef Ennab filled the prescriptions at pharmacies in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Michael Kent, Anthony Mathis and Raymond Walker oversaw “crews” of sham patients who received medically unnecessary prescriptions. Together, all eight defendants made millions of dollars from the scheme.
“If convicted of the drug charges, the defendants face up to 20 years’ imprisonment,” the DoJ informs, “If convicted of the money laundering charges, Smith and Kent face up to 20 years’ imprisonment for each count. The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Breon Peace is the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
He had this to say about the case: “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.”
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