Kings County DA sees ‘troubling trend in Brooklyn’
CADMAN PLAZA EAST — Federal and state authorities united in Downtown Brooklyn yesterday to announce charges against 98 people stemming from several separate investigations of prescription drug trafficking.
In Brooklyn, a sophisticated drug ring was broken up with the arrest of five men, all 22 or 23 years old, and operating in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
Kings County District Attorney Hynes announced the unsealing of a 50-count indictment yesterday charging Michael Donovan, Robert Ottofaro, Anthony Donofrio, Mohammed Farraj and Antonio Deangelis with conspiracy, criminal sale of controlled substances and related charges.
The highly organized ring sold oxycodone, as well as marijuana and cocaine, to customers who placed orders via telephone. During the course of the six-month investigation by the Brooklyn South Narcotics Squad and coordinated by the DA investigators, undercover officers were able to complete over 15 separate narcotics purchases from members of the ring.
District Attorney Hynes stated, “The activities of these five defendants are representative of the troubling trends that we are seeing in Brooklyn. Sellers are now making prescription drugs available along with the street drugs that have plagued the city for decades, and are doing so in a convenient, one-stop-shopping format, easily accessed with a quick phone call. What is particularly distasteful about these five young defendants is that they come from means and appear motivated by greed in its purest and most insidious form.”
In addition, Lynch announced the filing and settlement of a civil action brought against RXMK Corp., and its president, pharmacist Mark Khasklezon, who own and operate the Westside Pharmacy in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn.
In the civil action, the United States alleges that RXMK and Khaskelzon filled 88 forged prescriptions for oxycodone. Under the terms of a consent judgment, RXMK and Khaskelzon have paid a civil penalty of
$105,000 and have agreed not to sell oxycodone and most other Schedule II controlled substances for a period of two years.
Schedule II controlled substances have a high potential for abuse and, when abused, may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. In settling this action, RXMK and Khaskelzon did not admit wrongdoing.
The cases were detailed Wednesday at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is located in the main post office building on Cadman Plaza East. Local U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch was joined by the DEA, NYPD, and prosecutors from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.
“Faced with the growing threat of prescription drug trafficking and abuse, this office and our partners have joined forces to coordinate our attack against a menace every bit as dangerous as trafficking in cocaine or other narcotics,” Lynch said. yesterday. “The stakes could not be higher, as reflected by the murder of four people last June during a pharmacy robbery in Suffolk County, and the December shooting death of a federal agent who tried to stop a similar robbery in Nassau County.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recent increases in death rates from unintentional drug overdoses have been driven by an epidemic increase in the abuse of a class of drugs called opioid analgesics — pharmaceuticals that health care professionals may lawfully dispense in certain circumstances, but which have a high potential for abuse that may lead to addiction, violence and the degradation of communities.
The state and federal criminal enforcement actions announced yesterday focus on two classes of individuals responsible for the illicit trafficking of prescription drugs. The first involves traffickers, who have found profit in stealing, forging or “shopping” for multiple prescriptions for pain killers, which are then filled and re-sold illegally to users.
The second group of defendants includes health care practitioners who, in violation of their oaths to do no harm, exceeded their lawful authority to dispense and distribute controlled substances, did so in bad faith, for no legitimate medical purpose, and outside the usual course of accepted medical practices.
—The Associated Press, and Ryan Thompson of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
June 7, 2012 - 2:48am