Brooklyn, NY – A 10-count indictment was recently unsealed in federal court charging Dr. Somsri Ratanaprasatporn, her office manager Leticia Smith, Bassam Amin, Omar Elsayed, and Yousef Ennab who are pharmacists, Michael Kent, Anthony Mathis, and Raymond Walker with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone and related crimes.
Smith and Kent are also charged with money laundering in connection with their alleged efforts to hide the proceeds of their illegal oxycodone distribution operation. All eight defendants were arrested this morning and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Frank A. Tarentino, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division (DEA); Elysia M. Doherty, Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s Office of Investigations, New York Region (HHS-OIG); Thomas M. Fattorusso, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, New York (IRS-CI); Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD); Jocelyn E. Strauber, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation (DOI); and Joshua Vinciguerra, Director, New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE), announced the charges.
“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,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Today’s charges demonstrate this Office’s continued commitment to stemming the availability of illegal drugs and holding to account those who contribute to the epic tragedy that is the opioid epidemic.”
“This structured drug trafficking ring’s operations started in a doctor’s office and ended with $24 million worth of diverted oxycodone on the streets. DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to hold DEA Registrants and other medical professionals to the highest possible standards and also hold them accountable when they knowingly endanger members of the community. Together, we are all proud of this righteous work, and for the difference it makes in our communities. I commend the investigators and the prosecution team for their work on this wide-spread investigation,” stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Tarentino.
“As alleged, our health care system that serves vulnerable populations has been undermined by these individuals,” stated HHS-OIG Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Doherty. “HHS-OIG, together with our law enforcement partners, will continue to vigorously pursue those who steal from government health care programs for personal gain.”
NYPD Commissioner Sewell stated: “Today’s charges prove again that our fight against the illegal drug trade is unremitting. The NYPD, together with all of our local, state, and federal law-enforcement partners, will pursue these criminals wherever they operate – and when the perpetrators are trusted members of the medical community, their crimes are especially egregious. I thank and commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the DEA’s New York Division, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Services’ Criminal Investigations, the NYS Department of Health’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the New York City Department of Investigation, and everyone else involved in this case for their exceptional work.”
“As charged, these defendant medical professionals and their co-conspirators supplied more than 1.2 million oxycodone pills to the streets of New York City, promoting the illicit trade of dangerously addictive opioids. DOI will continue to work tirelessly with our federal and law enforcement partners to ensure that pill mills such as this one are exposed and shut down, and that the individuals who run them are held accountable. I thank the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and all our investigative partners on this investigation,” stated DOI Commissioner Strauber.
“With this multi-million-dollar criminal scheme, it’s alleged the defendants made their profits off the vulnerabilities and addictions of their customers throughout New York City. Law enforcement partnerships like those seen here today have been and continue to be an integral part of stopping the flow of highly addictive narcotics into our communities,” stated IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Fattorusso.
“Today’s charges show how diverted prescription drugs still fuel the opioid epidemic in New York. The Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement remains resolute in its commitment to work together with our federal and local law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle the criminal organizations that abuse the public’s trust in health care practitioners to move these dangerous and addictive pills from pharmacies to our neighborhoods,” stated BNE Director Vinciguerra.
Oxycodone is a highly addictive opioid used to treat severe and chronic pain conditions. Every year, millions of Americans abuse oxycodone, and the misuse of prescription painkillers like oxycodone leads to hundreds of thousands of annual emergency room visits. More than 16,000 Americans died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2020. Oxycodone prescriptions have enormous cash value to drug dealers. 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.
As set forth in the indictment and publicly filed documents, between December 2018 and October 2022, the defendants operated a drug distribution ring out of a medical practice on Linden Boulevard in East New York, Brooklyn. Together, they unlawfully distributed more than 11,000 prescriptions for oxycodone, amounting to more than 1.2 million oxycodone pills, which carry a street value of at least $24 million. Ratanaprasatporn, a pediatrician and general practitioner, and Smith, issued the prescriptions; Amin, Ennab and Elsayed filled the prescriptions at pharmacies in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and Kent, Mathis, and Walker oversaw “crews” of sham patients who received medically unnecessary prescriptions. Together, the defendants made millions of dollars from the scheme. During the execution of a search warrant this morning, members of law enforcement recovered several hundred thousand dollars in U.S. currency from Smith’s residence. Law enforcement also recovered two handguns that Kent was observed tossing from a rear door of his residence.
If convicted of the drug charges, the defendants face up to 20 years’ imprisonment. 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.
The charges are the result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the DEA. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Laura Zuckerwise, Victor Zapana, and Gilbert Rein. Assistant United States Attorney Claire Kedeshian of the Office’s Asset Recovery Section is handling forfeiture matters.
New Yorkers who need help finding substance-use-disorder treatment resources should contact 1-877-8-HOPENY. The HopeLine provides high quality, responsive information, and referral services via phone and text message to callers throughout New York State experiencing substance abuse issues. HOPEline services are free and confidential.
Source: US Attorney’s Office