STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — His patients called him “Doctor Lenny,” but on Thursday, he admitted to making Staten Island sick — by pumping some 125,000 painkillers into the borough’s black market.
Leonard Marchetta, 47, a physician assistant from Prince’s Bay arrested in September on charges he ran an oxycodone distribution ring, on Thursday entered a guilty plea in Manhattan federal court.
Marchetta now faces anywhere between probation and a 20-year maximum prison sentence.
“As Leonard Marchetta oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Staten Island clinic where he worked as a physician’s assistant, he also sat at the center of a scheme to dole out medically unnecessary prescriptions for more than 125,000 oxycodone pills to fake ‘patients,'” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
“His guilty plea today ensures that he will be punished for contributing to the prescription pill abuse epidemic.”
Marchetta ran the day-to-day operations at Huguenot Medical Services at 5405 Hylan Blvd., and the scheme ran from August 2012 to August 2014, according to federal prosecutors.
He was so notorious in the medical community that his prescriptions were flagged on a “do not fill” list at several Staten Island pharmacies, pharmacy insiders speaking on condition of anonymity told the Advance in September.
As prosecutors tell it, the scheme worked like this:
Marchetta’s two alleged accomplices, William Tagliaferro, 41 and Gregory Zaccagnino, 49, recruited people – some of whom were addicted to oxycodone – to pose as patients and see Marchetta.
Marchetta typically got $250 in cash for each visit, which often lasted just a minute or two, involved no actual physical examination, and ended with him writing a 150-tablet prescription for oxycodone. He also received a $500 fee for each prescription issued.
In some instances, Marchetta wrote prescriptions for people who didn’t exist, while in others, Tagliaferro and Zaccagnino allegedly got scripts issued by Marchetta for patients who hadn’t even stepped foot in the Huguenot clinic.
Tagliaferro and Zaccagnino would then take the patients to a pharmacy to fill the prescription, paying them between $150 to $200 cash for handing over the drugs, prosecutors said. Some of the patients were paid in pills to feed their addiction.
In the initial indictment, prosecutors alleged that Marchetta prescribed far more pills than he admitted to on Thursday — 4,109 oxycodone prescriptions, about 30 a week, amounting to about 611,000 pills.
The cases against Tagliaferro and Zaccagnino are still pending.
Marchetta continued his scheme even after a July 2013 bust uncovered an arsenal of guns, rifles and assault weapons, some of them with their serial numbers filed off, at his house. That case is still pending.
Marchetta’s attorney, Leo V. Duval, called the guilty plea “remorseful” and “sincere” on Thursday.
“The bottom line is, his plea was genuine. This part of the practice only represents a small part of who Len Marchetta is,” Duval said, adding that dozens of his patients who aren’t connected to the pain management side of his practice have lined up to support him when he’s sentenced. “I’ve already been contacted by lots of people who love this guy, and that’s the truth. Don’t be surprised if there’s 50 people sitting in the courtroom when he’s sentenced, or 100 people.”
That sentencing is slated for April 16, before U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel. Marchetta remains held in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
“He’s a good guy and he made some bad decisions. And he accepts responsibility for those and he’s gonna take whatever the punishment is like a man. It’s as simple as that.”