Three Long Island medics were among 13 suspects arrested Friday for alleged roles in a scheme to bilk Medicaid and Medicare by having patients undergo unnecessary tests in exchange for painkillers, authorities said.
Valley Stream residents Dr. Paul McClung and Reynat Glaz, a physical therapist, as well as Marie Nazaire, a physician assistant from Melville, were among those charged in a pair of federal indictments, authorities said. The arrests stemmed from a probe of three Brooklyn-based pill mills—doctors’ offices that overlook patients’ signs of addictions when prescribing painkillers.
“Prescriptions for oxycodone were treated as a commodity and patients were a means to an end—the end being money,” said Bridget Brennan, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor. “Patients endured unnecessary procedures knowing they would receive a monthly prescription for the most sought after narcotic on the black market. The fusion of pill mill and Medicaid mill harmed countless people throughout the region.”
Prosecutors said the 13 suspects are facing a combined 477 charges, including conspiracy, criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance, health care fraud, falsifying business records, money laundering and scheme to defraud by unlawfully selling prescriptions.
Their arrests were the result of a joint investigation between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York State authorities, Nassau County police, Suffolk County police, Port Washington village police and Rockville Centre village police. Officials dubbed the four-year investigation “Operation Avalanche.”
The case began to unravel when agents in the DEA’s Long Island District Office identified a group of so-called doctor shoppers—people that rack up prescriptions for painkiller that they then abuse or sell—who frequented two Brooklyn clinics, authorities said.
The DEA estimated that six million Oxycodone that the doctor shoppers got from the pill mills were sold on the black market, where they are believed to have a combined street value of up to $100 million. In return for the tests that the pill mills required the doctor shoppers to take, the clinics received $24.6 million in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, authorities said.
The alleged ringleader, Dr. Lazar Feygin, hired McClung and others in 2012 to orchestrate the pills-for-tests scheme, but the following year McClung and others opened their own practice, where they replicated the conspiracy, authorities said. Nazaire and Glaz also worked for Feygin, where they allegedly had supporting roles in the scam.