BROOKLYN —When Drug Enforcement Administration agents put handcuffs on Dr. Shaikh Monirul Hasan at his family medical practice in Sunset Park, Brooklyn in June 201, they already had footage of him accepting cash, before handing over a prescription for painkillers to an undercover officer.
The undercover agent said he repeatedly got prescriptions for highly addictive oxycodone pills from Dr. Hasan—written in the name of a woman who had lost her college I.D. card in 2009. The doctor had never met the woman, but the special narcotics prosecutor said Hasan wrote prescriptions in her name 32 different times.
When agents raided Dr. Hasan’s Woodmere, Long Island home and his bank boxes, they discovered $150,000 in cash and multiple, one ounce, gold bars.
Hasan received a 30-day “split” jail sentence and paid back more than $158,000 to the government, but Bridget Brennan—the Special Narcotics Prosecutor—was troubled by one aspect of the case.
“The Medical Board did not take away his medical license to practice,” Brennan told PIX11 Investigates.
Dr. Hasan still has his license, despite the fact he was turning cash profit on the illegal sale of prescription painkillers, during a time when an opioid epidemic was exploding in New York and New Jersey, killing many, young people—and forcing others to turn to heroin to fulfill their need for an opiate fix.
The New York State Division of Criminal Services gave PIX11 Investigates data Wednesday, indicating 64 medical practitioners or pharmacists have been arrested in the state since 2011, accused of criminal sale of prescriptions for controlled substances.
Many of the doctors ended up cutting plea deals with prosecutors to avoid serious jail time, and a good number surrendered their medical licenses.
But that was not the case in every instance, and that bothers Brennan.
The office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also develops cases against corrupt doctors who pocket cash by selling prescriptions.
Just last year, Schneiderman’s office busted Dr. Anand Persaud at his medical center in Baldwin, Long Island. Persaud was accused of raking in $1.4 million dollars in cash in just a one year period, from the sale of prescriptions.
Persaud’s wife was later arraigned for tax fraud.
Both pleaded not guilty.
PIX11 Investigates recently spent time with prosecutor Brennan—going over some of the criminal cases that have already been resolved, many with plea deals.
One of the largest cases involved Astramed clinics in the Bronx.
Dr. Robert Terdiman was arrested by DEA agents and the NYPD in February 2014, accused of putting three million oxycodone pills on the streets between 2012 and 2014.
Brennan’s office said the pills were worth $90 million dollars.
At the time, DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge, James J. Hunt, called it “the dismantlement of the largest pill mill in the northeast.”
Phony patients, known as runners, paid between $200 and $300 by money order for every prescription they received from Dr. Terdiman.
Bridget Brennan said gang members were running security outside the busy clinic on Southern Boulevard, where the runners did the bidding for drug dealers.
Dr. Terdiman ended up cutting a deal to testify against the owner of Astramed clinics, Dr. Kevin Lowe, who had tried to keep his hands clean by having other doctors fill the prescriptions.
Dr. Lowe was convicted in federal court in May.
All totaled, Lowe’s clinics turned out 35,000 “medically unnecessary” prescriptions for painkillers.
Brennan’s office recently won a conviction against Dr. Hector Castro, the founder of Itzamna Medical Center on East 16th Street.
Castro was supposed to be catering to the needs of the Latino community.
Instead, Dr. Castro was convicted of writing phony prescriptions for oxycodone that were often filled in New Jersey pharmacies—and also sold by drug dealers in Pennsylvania.
Castro was trying to elude New York State’s computer monitoring system of prescriptions for controlled substances.
Dr. Schiller Desgrottes, arrested in 2013 at his Dix Hills home, made a plea deal with the Special Narcotics Prosecutor in April. He’s expected to receive three years probation and will surrender his medical license.
Brennan’s office won a manslaughter conviction against Dr. Stan Li in 2014.
Li, a New Jersey anesthesiologist, opened a basement clinic in Flushing, Queens—where he used to sell painkiller prescriptions on Saturday mornings.
At least two of his patients died from fatal overdoses, and a jury held Li liable for their deaths. Li was sentenced to 10 2/3 to 20 years in prison last September.
Dr. Robert Gibbs, a Harlem pulmonologist who was charged with putting a million oxycodone pills on the streets, through the selling of prescriptions, received a somewhat lenient sentence in 2013, after he cut a deal with prosecutors.
He was sentenced to five years probation and surrendered his medical license.
Brennan noted that Dr. Gibbs was 75 years old and had some health issues.
Dr. Zhanna Kanevsky also cut a deal with Brennan’s office that same year, after she was caught in a scheme at a Sheepshead Bay clinic in Brooklyn.
Kanevsky was hired by defendant, Sergey Plotits, to work in the clinic.
From January 2012 to May 2013, she wrote prescriptions for approximately 100,000 oxycodone pills and 5,000 Xanax to phony patients. The pills had a street value of two million dollars.
Kanevsky pleaded guilty and received five years probation and surrendered her medical license.
Not many doctors received significant jail time, but anesthesiologist Arnold Roth was prosecuted by the Attorney General, receiving one to three years in prison.
Roth’s prescription writing allowed 16,000 oxycodone pills to be sold on the streets of Dutchess County.
The significant number of doctors getting busted for selling out on their profession makes it clear they were no longer following the Hippocratic Oath—but had turned into hypocrites.