Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said Thursday that five doctors have been arrested for prescribing over 8.5 million oxycodone pills unnecessarily. He described the doctors as “drug dealers in white coats” whose motivation was greed.
Of the five, Dr. Dante Cubangbang wrote 4.6 million oxycodone prescriptions in the last six years, making him the most prolific among them according to NBC News. Cubangbang worked in a Queens pain clinic where three other members of the staff were charged: nurse John Gargan, office manager Michael Kellerman, and “crew chief” Loran Piquant. The clinic wrote prescriptions for 6.2 million oxycodone pills, the equivalent of 180 grams of the drug, over the last six years. Those prescriptions provided $5.7 million in patient fees over the last three years.
This isn’t Cubangbang’s first run-in with the law over the operation of his business. In May 2015, he was placed on probation by New York’s Health Department’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct for failures to maintain accurate records and check patient medical histories, particularly any history of opiate treatment. In March of this year, he was charged with five counts of violating his probation.
Nurse John Gargan was charged with prescribing 1.6 million oxycodone pills. The videotape of Michael Kellerman expressing frustration that the office wasn’t bringing in enough patients despite the high volume of the business was obtained by investigators. Loran Piquant was charged with buying pills that he then sold to other individuals.
5 New York doctors charged with running illegal prescription drug mills that flooded the state with more than 8,500,000 oxycodone pills. https://t.co/LH83KUvrTu
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 11, 2018
Dr. Carl Anderson was also arrested and charged with distributing almost a million oxycodone pills from his home and office since 2006. He allegedly prescribed them with no appointment at times, even responding to phone calls at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. Patients exhibited obvious signs of addiction, and he required hundreds of dollars in exchange according to court papers. He also allegedly supplied street dealer Arthur Grande with a large number of pills.
Anthony Pietropinto is a Manhattan psychiatrist who was also charged Thursday with thousands of prescriptions of the opioid. Among those prescriptions are more than 12,000 he wrote for one patient between October 2013 and May 2018. Pietropinto filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
Nadem Sayegh is a Bronx endocrinologist who prescribed over 50,000 oxycodone pills for over $100,000 in cash, an “all-expenses paid trip to Puerto Rico, cruises, and luxury gifts such as high-end whisky and expensive meals” according to court records.
The fifth doctor charged Thursday is Dr. Nkanga Nkanga who distributed over 50,000 oxycodone pills and thousands of other controlled substances. Nkanga often sent less than 10 minutes with his patients. During that time, he usually didn’t ask if they were in pain or perform any kind of physical examination. Court records show that he fell asleep while writing prescriptions during one appointment.
In addition to the five doctors, pharmacist Mark Klein was arrested Thursday and charged with distributing almost 10,000 oxycodone pills from his pharmacy in exchange for cash, meals, and an all-expense-paid vacation to Atlantic City. Court papers indicate that Klein was once asked by a former pharmacist about the number of pills he was prescribing. Klein reportedly told the pharmacist that he and his employees were “licensed drug dealers,” adding that, “Oxy pays the bills around here.”