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Upper West Side doctor and wife indicted for conspiracy and 37 illegal prescription sales

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Cash seized Tuesday at Lucas’ residence in Scarsdale.  (Photo: DEA New York Division)

Cash seized Tuesday at Lucas’ residence in Scarsdale.
(Photo: DEA New York Division)

NEW YORK — A 77-year-old doctor working on the Upper West Side and his 79-year-old wife were busted Tuesday morning, accused of putting more than three million, powerful Oxycodone pills into the hands of drug dealers, in exchange for cash.   The pills were worth $77 million on the streets.

In the course of carrying out several raids, Drug Enforcement Administration agents and NYPD officers seized more than $600,000 in cash from the Scarsdale home of Dr. Rogelio Lucas and his wife, Lydia Lucas. The home is located at 15 Black Birch Lane in Scarsdale.

The elderly couple also had a residence in Manhattan, and that’s where they were arrested Tuesday.  Dr. Lucas was taken into custody inside their apartment at 215 West 95th Street.  Lydia Lucas was apprehended by agents outside. Mrs. Lucas served as her husband’s office manager at their latest clinic location, at 215 West 101st Street, Suite 1-A.  The frail-looking husband and wife later appeared at their court arraignment downtown, in a case run by the office of Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, and her Prescription Drug Investigation Unit.

The couple is charged in a conspiracy that ran six and a half years. Brennan’s office said Dr. Lucas and his wife used to run a family medical practice that catered to elderly patients but, in 2009, the practice underwent a radical change. Starting that year, prosecutors charge, 76 percent of prescriptions written by Dr. Lucas were for Oxycodone, a highly-addictive painkiller that makes billions of dollars for drug dealers.

Since January 2nd, 2009, Dr. Lucas allegedly wrote over 23,600 Oxycodone prescriptions for about 3.1 million pills, with an estimated street value of $77 million on the black market. Investigators say he was writing 45 to 50 prescriptions a day in a pill mill where his wife allegedly collected $120 cash for each “office visit.”  Detectives and federal agents believe high-level members of a drug ring recruited “runners” to get the prescriptions–which were often filled at pharmacies–with the pills then turned over to the narcotics ring.

Brennan’s office said Dr. Lucas only performed the most cursory of examinations and didn’t both asking about a patient’s injuries, medical history or level of pain.

The arrest of Dr. Lucas and his wife comes a week after a PIX11 Investigates special report, looking at the alarming trend of corrupt doctors getting busted for selling painkiller prescriptions. The money opportunities grew for greedy physicians, after an opioid epidemic exploded nationally, afflicting teens, middle aged, and elderly people. Many of the young gravitated from abusing painkillers to overdosing on heroin, which is cheaper and produces a similar, euphoric high to painkillers. Before Tuesday’s arrest of Dr. Lucas, 62 doctors and pharmacists had been arrested since 2011 in New York State, for selling prescription painkillers for profit.   Many received little or no jail time, but most were forced to surrender their license to practice.  Some doctors did get prison terms, including Dr. Stan Li, who was convicted of manslaughter and criminal sale of prescriptions.  He’s doing 10 2/3 to 20 years.

Of Tuesday’ s arrest, Bridget Brennan said, “Dr. Lucas is charged with being one of the city’s most prolific illegal prescribers of the black market’s favorite pill–30 mg Oxycodone.”  Brennan added, ” Corrupt doctors who exchange prescriptions for cash have stoked the epidemic of addiction gripping our region.”