LOWER MANHATTAN -- He'd insisted for two years that he was not the mastermind of a region-wide ring of illegal opioid sales to addicts, which also profited from Medicare and Medicaid fraud, but on Monday Dr. Lazar Feygin pled guilty to being exactly what he'd been accused of.
His admission of guilt will keep him behind bars, where he's been since 2017, but it also gives him the prospect of not spending the rest of his life locked up -- a real possibility if he'd proceeded to trial.
Feygin, 72, had been arrested by state narcotics agents in April 2017 at the end of a years-long investigation. At the time, as he was being walked into court here in handcuffs for his first appearance before a judge, he spoke to PIX11.
"We never ever treat addicts," he said. "We treat sick people. We're a primary care facility."
Drug agents said that their investigation told a much different story. They said that they'd amassed enough evidence to prove that the Brooklyn-based doctor had for years led a ring of other doctors, as well as nurses, medical office managers, and other medical professionals, including former New York State Assemblymember Alec Brook Krasny, in a $24 million scheme.
Investigators said that Feygin and his associates wrote prescriptions for at least six million oxycodone and other opioid pills, and got reimbursed for it from bogus Medicaid and Medicare claims.
"I am absolutely innocent," Dr. Feygin said while being walked in to court by drug agents two years ago.
He's been incarcerated without bail at Rikers Island ever since.
On Monday, here at court, his comments were simple and short, in response to charges and potential sentences that were neither. He faced more than 230 felony charges, including conspiracy, criminal sale of a controlled substance, and health care fraud. As a result of an agreement made between his attorney and prosecutors, Dr. Feygin pled guilty to 16 counts.
"Are you pleading to these charges because you are guilty of these charges?" asked Judge Neil Ross.
"Yes, I do," Feygin replied.
As part of the plea agreement, Feygin will receive a five-year prison sentence. Including time he's already served, along with other possible incentives, he should be released from prison sometime in 2021, according to his attorney, James Froccaro.
If he'd chosen to go to trial, and had been found guilty, he'd faced up to 25 years in prison on many of the charges, which the judge could have ordered him to serve consecutively. It would have left him to die behind bars.
Feygin's attorney also said, in court, that as part of the plea agreement, his client will plead the Fifth Amendment if he's asked to testify against any of the 12 other defendants with whom he'd been arrested. He will, in other words, not provide any meaningful testimony in their cases.
Feygin's sentencing is scheduled for April 23. He still faces federal charges.