Nov. 1, 2019. By Shane O’Brien
Two employees of a Woodside medical clinic have been convicted for their role in a scheme where more than six million Oxycodone pills were illegally distributed to patients who didn’t need them, federal prosecutors announced last week.
John F. Gargan, a nurse practitioner, 63, and Loren Piquant, a receptionist, 38, were found guilty Oct. 23 of illegally distributing the highly addictive drug out of the EPOH Medical P.C., located at 51-23 Queens Blvd., according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The news comes after Dante A. Cubangbang, 51, a physician, and Michael Kellerman, 55, an office manager, previously pleaded guilty to narcotics, health care fraud, and money laundering charges in connection with their participation in the oxycodone distribution scheme at that same clinic.
Cubangbang and Gargan were the central figures in the distribution of the drugs, authorities say. Kellerman, meanwhile, collected and laundered more than $5 million in cash, while Piquant recruited patients off the street and personally sold hundreds of the pills.
The four defendants were arrested in October last year in connection with the crimes.
From January 2012 to September 2018, Cubangbang and Gargan prescribed roughly 6.3 million Oxycodone 30-milligram pills – the equivalent of 180 kilograms of pure Oxycodone – to patients they knew did not need them for legitimate medical reasons.
The majority of those pills were sold to others on the street, the DA’s office said.
At approximately $19 a pill, the value of the pills prescribed by Cubangbang and Gargan was approximately $120 million.
The four defendants used EPOH Medical P.C. as a front to sell prescriptions for the drug, the DA’s office said. The clinic had over 600 patients who traveled from all five boroughs of New York, from other counties in New York and, on rare occasions, from other states to obtain prescriptions for Oxycodone.
The patients would pay $300 for a visit to the clinic and in return they would receive a prescription for as many as 180 Oxycodone pills. The visits lasted no longer than a couple of minutes and involved no medical examinations of any sort, according to the DA’s office/
EPOH generated a yearly revenue of over $2 million from patient visit fees alone.
US Attorney Geoffrey Bergman said that the four defendants had neglected their duties as healthcare providers.
“These health professionals should have been the first line of defense against opioid abuse, but instead they were drug dealers operating out of a medical clinic. They hid behind their medical licenses and positions within the clinic to sell addictive, dangerous narcotics,” Bergman said.
Cubangbang and Kellerman each pleaded guilty to one count of narcotics distribution, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, one count of health care fraud conspiracy, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence, and one count of money laundering conspiracy, which also carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Gargan and Piquant were both found guilty of one count of narcotics distribution.