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Photo via Twitter/@DEANewYork
Photo via Twitter/@DEANewYork
NYPD and DEA agents escort Dr. Lawrence Choy into court on June 7.

A federal grand jury indicted a former Flushing doctor who allegedly ran a “pill mill” out of his practice, overprescribing his patients with controlled substances and causing three fatal overdoses in the process.

Dr. Lawrence Choy, 65, wound up in a federal courtroom on June 7 following a two-year investigation that federal and New York State agencies conducted. Choy, a former Manhattan resident, was initially arrested in March in Sheboygan, Wisconsin — where he had relocated after abruptly abandoning his practice in Flushing a year ago — and brought back to New York after extradition proceedings were completed.

In 2012, according to law enforcement sources, Choy began overprescribing the painkiller oxycodone and numerous other controlled substances to patients out of his nephrology practice on Franklin Avenue in Flushing. He began doing this, authorities said, soon after tax warrants were levied against Choy for back taxes exceeding a million dollars.

The side effects of Choy’s alleged actions proved fatal, authorities said. Three of his patients, to whom he had overprescribed oxycodone, Xanax and other controlled medication, died from overdoses.

They included Jamaica resident Eliot Castillo, 35, who began seeing Choy in March of 2012. Without performing blood work and other analysis, prosecutors said, Choy immediately prescribed Castillo with oxycodone, clonazepam (an anti-anxiety medication) and carisoprodol (a muscle relaxer). Over time, Castillo became addicted to the cocktail of medication, consuming greater dosages of them, and wound up going into drug rehab before ultimately relapsing.

Castillo, a clothing store operator and father of two, died in February of 2015; an autopsy revealed that he had succumbed to intoxication from a combination of oxycodone and alprazolam. Two other patients, both residents of Long Island, also wound up dying of prescription drug-related overdoses.

“Dr. Choy’s blatant disregard to the practice of medicine became a parent’s worst nightmare and an opioid addict’s dream,” DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said on June 7. “Similar investigations into the diversion of prescription medication have put doctors at the same level as drug kingpins; both types of traffickers push millions of doses of opioids into our communities, leaving grieving families in their wake.”

Within years of overprescribing medication, law enforcement sources said, Choy expanded his practice out of state and began catering to individuals from upstate New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Federal and state law enforcement agencies began investigating him after the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office learned of suspicious prescriptions in Choy’s name were being filled at pharmacies across the state.

The investigation led to a March 2016 raid of Choy’s office by DEA’s Strike Force Group Z-23 and the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s office. Agents seized Choy’s computer equipment and records.

With the investigation continuing, authorities noted, Choy abruptly left New York state in June of 2017 and headed to the Midwest. Prosecutors said he had left the Flushing office in complete disarray. The following August, they conducted a second raid of the office and obtained additional records.

“It is critically important that law enforcement agencies diligently and tenaciously investigate medical professionals who use their privileged status to enhance their own incomes by recklessly prescribing dangerous drugs,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said.

Choy faces two counts of second-degree manslaughter, nine counts of reckless endangerment and 220 counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance, the DEA announced on Thursday.

“The defendant in this case took an oath to do no harm, yet three of his patients are dead,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown added. “My office will continue to work with our law enforcement colleagues to aggressively pursue those who flood our streets with pills that kill.”

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