Six pharmacists from Queens and two reputed mob associates were charged last week in a $12.6-million prescription drug dealing ring.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown joined Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on June 8th to announce the filing of criminal charges against the pharmacists and the two reputed mob associates linked to the Bonnano, Gambino and Luchese crime families.
Brown said that the investigation began last June when detectives with the NYPD Narcotics Borough Queens received information about an illegal prescription drug ring in Whitestone, near the Throgs Neck Bridge. The undercover operation was then dubbed Whitebay.
The 11-month investigation involved court-authorized electronic surveillance, review of state records and following various members of the alleged ring. It is charged that the defendants engaged in hundreds of separate transactions involving the sale and distribution of thousands of prescription drug tablets, especially Vicodin, a pain killer.
Detectives executed search warrants earlier last week at seven pharmacies and recovered over $60,000 in cash, 58 blank physicians’ prescription pads, six handguns and thousands of Vicodin pills as well as small amounts of steroids, cocaine and amphetamines.
The pharmacies included Utopia Pharmacy on 46th Avenue in Flushing; Shop Wise Pharmacy on Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park; Linden Park Pharmacy on 153rd Street in Howard Beach; Rite Aid Pharmacy on Queens Boulevard in Woodside; Apex Family Pharmacy on Union Turnpike in New Hyde Park; Wakefield Pharmacy on Lefferts Boulevard in Ozone Park, and Rossi Pharmacy on 101st Avenue in Ozone Park.
The criminal complaint charges that the accused pharmacists sold Vicodin, obtained legitimately from suppliers, to defendant Dominick Devito, a reputed mob associate. They were sold for $1 to $1.25 each and then Devito is accused of selling them to dealers for $2 and $2.25.
Allegedly, the dealers sold the pills on the street, in bars and at local colleges for $8 to $12. Vicodin, apparently, is the latest drug du jour of the college and teen crowd.
The law enforcement officials reported the sale of 25,000 Vicodin pills a week in the illegal operation.
“The defendants mistakenly thought that their illegal activities were not being detected, when, in fact, their telephone conversations were being intercepted and they were being investigated and targeted for arrest, prosecution and imprisonment,” Brown said.
He added that they “allegedly plundered legitimate prescription drug supplies for their own benefit, criminally diverted prescription drugs for illegal sale and reaped illicit profits of over $12.6 million.”
Commissioner Kelly noted that the ring was notorious because “it corrupted pharmacists in exploiting addicts in the sale of Vicodin at inflated prices.”
Under state law, pharmacists must dispense prescription drugs only by written prescription from a licensed physician, dispense in containers labeled with a user’s name and address and limit the amount of a controlled substance to a 30-day supply.
If it is proven that the arrested pharmacists failed to comply with the law, they face the loss of their licenses. If convicted, the sentences for all arrested could run up to 15 years in jail.
The defendants are:
Reputed crime family associates: Devito of 149th Avenue in Howard Beach and Joseph Pisicchio of 200th Street in Bayside.
Pharmacists: Peter Grassi of 160th Street in Flushing; Robert Duca Jr., of Roslyn; Timothy Scutchfield of North Bellmore; Khader Syed of Mineola; Farid Syed of Mineola, and Alem Junaid of New Hyde Park.
Dealers: Anthino Russo of Linden Boulevard in Ozone Park; Christopher Manta of 58th Avenue in Flushing; Noah Gross of 23rd Avenue in Bayside; Felix Mendez of Geranium Avenue in Flushing, and Kimberly Vargas of Geranium Avenue in Flushing.