By Bill Parry
A doctor, a nurse practitioner and two of their associates at a Woodside medical clinic prescribed millions of oxycodone pills to patients who didn’t need them and made millions of dollars in illegal profits, federal prosecutors announced last week.
Physician Dante A. Cubanbang, 50, and nurse practitioner John F. Gargan, 62, distributed the highly addictive opioids out of the Hope Physical & Rehabilitation Clinic, located at 51-23 Queens Blvd., according to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York. The duo worked with Michael Kellerman, 54, and Loren Piquant, 37, both employees of the clinic and part of the scheme.
The four were among 10 New York City-based medical professionals who were charged Oct. 11 in five indictments and a criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court relating to 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. “They hid behind their medical licenses to sell addictive, dangerous narcotics. This office will do everything in its power to bring justice to anyone responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic that has taken so many lives.”
The Woodside operation distributed more than six million oxycodone pills to individuals with no medical need between January 2012 and September 2018, according to the indictment. Recipients of the illegal prescriptions had them filled at area pharmacies and the sold the pills to drug dealers, who then resold them to drug addicts, according to the indictment.
All four were charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Cubangang, Gargan and Kellerman are also charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
“Our entire country is suffering through an opioid crisis, and we need to do everything we can to save as many lives as possible,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said. “We need to help people from falling 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. A good step in that direction is to investigate and put away the criminals who have so clearly betrayed their professional oaths — who have put illegal profits above their own integrity, and above the well-being of their fellow man.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr