Four operators of a Woodside-based pain management clinic allegedly reaped millions of dollars by illegally prescribing highly addictive opioids to patients who didn’t need them, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.
Dr. Dante Cubangbang, 50, along with John Gargan, 62, Michael Kellerman, 54, and Loren Piquant, 37, distributed the pills out of the Hope Physical & Rehabilitation Clinic at 51-23 Queens Blvd., according to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. They were among 10 medical professionals in the New York City area charged in five indictments and a criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Oct. 11 related to illegal opioid distribution.
“These doctors and other health professionals should have been the first line of defense against opioid abuse, but as alleged in today’s charges, instead of caring for their patients, they were drug dealers in white coats,” Berman said on Oct. 11. “They hid behind their medical licenses to sell addictive, dangerous narcotics.”
Law enforcement sources said the Woodside clinic prescribed more than 6 million oxycodone pills — equal to 180 kilograms between January 2012 and September of this year. The recipients of the illegal prescriptions had them filled at local pharmacies, then sold the pills to local drug dealers who, in turn, re-sold the pills to drug addicts, according to the indictment.
A 30-day supply of oxycodone — each containing 180 30-milligram pills — has a street value of at least $5,400 in New York City, the indictment noted.
Between January 2015 and May 2018, authorities said, Cubangbang and Gargan, who is a nurse practitioner, wrote 19,000 oxycodone pills and charged each patient $300 in cash per visit. Over this period, prosecutors said, the clinic generated $5.7 million in revenue.
The investigation also found that Cubangbang and Gargan — along with Kellerman, the office manager, and Piquant, the receptionist — also defrauded Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers by also ordering unnecessary urine tests in correlation to the scheme to illegally overprescribe oxycodone.
Authorities said Kellerman allegedly collected the cash payments from patients, handled all profits related to the illegal prescription scheme and created and submitted phony medical records to disguise the illegal activities.
Piquant, meanwhile, bought oxycodone pills for re-sale purposes from the clinic’s patients, the indictment noted.
All four members of the Woodside clinic were arrested on Oct. 10 and charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances; Cubangbang, Gargan and Kellerman were additionally charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each suspect faces a maximum of 10 to 20 years behind bars if convicted.
“Our entire country is suffering through an opioid abuse crisis, and we need to do everything we can to save as many lives as possible,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill added. “We need to help people from falling back into a black hole of addiction and fatal overdoses. We have to push New York City and our nation to thrive, and to turn this epidemic around.”
QNS contacted the Hope clinic in Woodside by phone and received no response.