The owner of a Far Rockaway pharmacy was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for illegally distributing oxycodone and filing false tax returns.
Daniel Russo, 44, of Cedarhurst, Long Island, pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court last February to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, distribution and possession of oxycodone and nine counts of filing false personal and corporate tax returns.
As set forth in the indictment, court filings and during court proceedings, Russo owned and operated Russo’s Pharmacy on Cornaga Avenue in Far Rockaway. Between March 2011 and June 2014, Russo conspired with others, including medical professionals and employees, to fill fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone and dispense thousands of oxycodone pills in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. Over the course of the conspiracy, Russo’s co-conspirators delivered hundreds of fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions to Russo’s Pharmacy and would then retrieve the filled prescriptions — written out in various patients’ names — so that they could be dispensed elsewhere.
Oxycodone illegally distributed by Russo led to at least one non-fatal overdose, according to prosecutors. Russo accepted payment mostly in cash for the prescriptions. Russo then hid the proceeds from the scheme and filed false corporate income tax returns for his pharmacy for the years 2013 through 2016, omitting the illegal proceeds. Russo also filed false individual income tax returns for the years 2012 through 2016. In total, Russo failed to report over $1 million in earnings, much of it generated from his oxycodone distribution scheme. As a result, Russo fraudulently underreported his tax obligations on those earnings by over $400,000.
“From pharmacist to pill pusher, Daniel Russo betrayed his years of medical training to pocket dirty money in return for illegally selling enormous amounts of oxycodone, which was invariably later sold on the streets,” U.S.Attorney Breon Peace said. “Today’s sentence sends a message to all would-be drug dealers, especially healthcare professionals, that the illegal distribution of drugs will be punished.”
More than a dozen physicians for whom Russo filled prescriptions have since been convicted of crimes related to the distribution of oxycodone.
U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry sentenced Russo to 60 months in federal prison to be followed by three years post-release supervision.
“Through today’s sentencing and prior plea, it is apparent that Daniel Russo will spend the next five years contemplating his ill-fated decision to use his business to illegally distribute prescription medication while enabling opioid addiction throughout New York,” Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent-in-Charge Frank Tarentino said. “The investigation and prosecution meticulously brought to justice Russo’s tax fraud and his role in a major drug trafficking conspiracy.”
Immediately prior to the sentencing, Russo paid over $400,000 in restitution.
“Russo distributed highly addictive drugs to the community he served, completely disregarding his sworn code of ethics as a pharmacist,” IRS Criminal Investigation Agent-in-Charge Thomas Fattorusso said. “And while using his position to commit criminal acts, he then failed to report and pay taxes on the proceeds of his illicit sales. It is with strong law enforcement partnerships that we were able to ensure Russo is now facing justice for his actions.”