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Brooklyn-based prescription drug trafficking ring busted

Alprazolam, which also goes by the brand name Xanax, is highly in demand – both in legal pharmacy sales and “on the street.” Wikipedia photo

Nearly $3.4 million in pills diverted

From NYS Special Prosecutor’s Office

State and federal officials on Wednesday announced the indictment of five members of a prescription drug trafficking ring.

A nine-month wiretap investigation revealed that ring eader Sergey Plotits established medical offices in Sheepshead Bay and other Brooklyn neighborhoods for the sole purpose of illegally collecting and distributing large quantities of highly addictive prescription medication, according to the indictment.

Among those charged in the indictment, which was filed by the Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Prescription Drug Investigation Unit, is Zhanna Kanevsky, a physician hired by Plotits to write prescriptions at a medical office he established at 1763 East 12th Street in Sheepshead Bay.

Defendants Rostislav Vilshteyn, Emil Shumunov, and Alla Kuratova allegedly recruited other individuals to act as phony patients in visits with the corrupt medical practitioners.

Over the course of the conspiracy charged in the indictment, which ran from August 2011 to the present, the defendants illegally collected and distributed over 180,000 prescription pills, including approximately 170,000 pills of oxycodone, a potent type of narcotic painkiller, and nearly 12,000 pills of alprazolam (Xanax), a highly addictive anti-anxiety medication.

Evidence of the conspiracy includes prescription records, recorded phone conversations, law enforcement surveillance and testimony from multiple witnesses.

“The conduct described in this indictment illustrates the scope of damage that can be caused when medical professionals seek to abuse and illegally profit from their licenses and positions,” said New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H.

In carrying out the scheme, Plotits identified and secured locations for use as medical practices in the vicinity of Sheepshead Bay and elsewhere. Plotits  then hired medical professionals licensed to prescribe controlled substances, including Kanevsky.  Meanwhile, Vilshteyn,  Shumunov, and  Kuratova recruited people they knew to pose as patients and obtain prescriptions from the medical practitioners employed by Plotits.  The phony patients were paid in cash for obtaining the prescriptions.

The investigation, spearheaded by the DEA's New York City Tactical Diversion Squad (TDS-NY), included agents and officers from the DEA, the NYPD, the Town of Orangetown Police Department and the Westchester County Department of Public Safety.

Detectives, investigators and agents from the NYPD's Brooklyn South Narcotics Division, the New York State Health Department Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE), HHS-OIG and the New York State Department of Financial Services revealed that medical practitioners employed by Plotits generally failed to perform examinations on these phony patients. The drug ring paid these corrupt medical practitioners by the hour or by the day.

During the 17 months that Kanevsky worked for Plotits, from January 2012 until May 2013, she wrote prescriptions for approximately 100,000 oxycodone pills and 5,000 Xanax pills to these phony patients, according to the charges. These pills carry a combined street value of approximately $2 million.

"This criminal enterprise brazenly set up an office and recruited medical professionals solely to write pain-pill prescriptions for phony patients," said New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan.  “The investigation uncovered corrupt medical professionals, armed with prescription pads and pens, flooding the black market with more than 100,000 highly addictive pills.”

In some instances, members of the drug ring directed the phony patients to fill prescriptions in particular pharmacies, using cash or Medicaid. The phony patients then collected the oxycodone or Xanax pills and handed them over to the drug ring. In other instances, the recruits handed the signed prescription sheet directly to Vilshteyn,  Shumunov and  Kuratova.

"As the epidemic of prescription drug abuse continues in this country, law enforcement and public health officials need to be ever-vigilant against diversion of prescription medications,” said Shah.  

July 17, 2013 - 3:30pm


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