Cedarhurst Pharmacist Admits to $1M NYC Oxycodone Scheme

Long Island's drug epidemic is fueled by oxycodone, heroin and fentanyl.
Long Island’s drug epidemic is fueled by oxycodone, heroin and fentanyl.

A pharmacist from Cedarhurst has admitted illegally selling about $1 million worth of addictive painkillers from his Far Rockaway drug store in a scheme with crooked doctors over a four-year span, federal prosecutors said.

Daniel E. Russo pleaded guilty Friday at Brooklyn federal court to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, distribution and possession of oxycodone, and filing false personal and corporate tax returns.  

“Russo was a drug dealer in a white coat,” said Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “He abused his pharmacy license and the trust placed in him by the community to illegally distribute enormous amounts of oxycodone, spreading misery in the community and fueling addiction, all to enrich himself.”

Authorities said the 44-year-old owner of Russo’s Pharmacy 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 between March 2011 and June 2014. 

Russo then hid the proceeds from the scheme and filed false personal and corporate income tax returns for years, omitting the illegal proceeds, failing to report over $1 million in earnings, much of it generated from his oxycodone distribution scheme, according to investigators.

More than a dozen physicians for whom Russo filled prescriptions have since been convicted of crimes related to the distribution of oxycodone, prosecutors said.

“This plea solidifies the fact that Russo blatantly ignored his role as a medical practitioner in order to line his pockets with cash,” said Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Division. “Through this illicit scheme, Russo enabled opioid addiction and misuse throughout Queens and Long Island communities.”

Russo faces up to 20 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry.