June 07–A sweeping crackdown on the illegal distribution of prescription painkillers on Long Island and in New York City netted 98 arrests, including a doctor who provided narcotics to Medford pharmacy killer David Laffer, authorities said Wednesday.
The three medical professionals arrested in the raids dispensed a total of more than 3 million pills in two years, according to court documents.
Scores of federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local police officers swarmed throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties and Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island over the past week and up to Wednesday morning. The massive, unprecedented operation focused on “doctor shoppers” and alleged members of drug distribution rings that obtain large quantities of drugs from different doctors for personal use or resale.
Among those arrested were Dr. Eric Jacobson, who practices in Great Neck and lives in Huntington. Jacobson had been under investigation for providing painkillers to Laffer and is described as one of the largest distributors of oxycodone in New York State, having issued prescriptions for more than 2 million pills between August 2010 and December 2011, according to court documents.
Also arrested were Baldwin Dr. William J. Conway, who federal officials said illegally distributed more than 780,000 oxycodone pills, and Rools Deslouches, a Brentwood nurse practitioner who distributed more than 420,000 pills.
U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch called illegal prescription drug distribution “a menace every bit as dangerous as trafficking in cocaine or other narcotics.”
“The prescription drug problem presents a new face and a new challenge for law enforcement, as it involves new actors and permeates all of our communities,” Lynch said in a statement.
The raids were part of a wide-ranging effort to curb the illegal distribution of prescription drugs, including oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and hydrocodone, Lynch said Wednesday at a news conference at the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
The coordinated effort to combat the growing threat of prescription drug trafficking and abuse was accelerated after two horrendous crimes on Long Island.
Last June 19, Father’s Day, Laffer gunned down four people at the Medford pharmacy while stealing large quantities of painkillers. Then on New Year’s Eve, John Capano, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was shot to death while struggling with a suspect who had robbed a Seaford pharmacy of painkillers.
Jacobson, Conway, and Deslouches were all held without bail as a danger to the community by Magistrate E. Thomas Boyle at their arraignments in federal court in Central Islip. They were not required to enter a plea to charges of illegally distributing prescription drugs. The remaining 95 people were arraigned or in the process of being arraigned Wednesday.
The three allegedly operated cash-only businesses — charging fees of up to $450 for a visit — and issued prescriptions for claims of pains and ailments from patients whom they didn’t put through rigorous medical checks, according to documents from federal prosecutors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Canty described Deslouches as “a drug dealer in a lab coat” during his arraignment Wednesday.
Deslouches’ attorney, Barry Zone of Manhattan, said: “They got it wrong. They have blown this way out of proportion.”
Federal prosecutor Sean Flynn said officials also linked Conway to the deaths of a 34-year-old man from Long Beach and a 29-year-old man from Hicksville. Both overdosed as a result of Conway’s “systematic and callous dispensing of oxycodone,” according to a letter from the U.S. attorney’s office requesting his detention.
Conway has not been charged in those deaths. His attorney, Richard Langone of Garden City, said that “Dr. Conway is a very compassionate person.”
Jacobson’s attorney, John Martin of Great Neck, declined to comment afterward, as did Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz.
With John Valenti