United States Files Civil Complaint Seeking Injunctive Relief, Penalties And Forfeiture Of Assets Tied To Suffolk County Clinic’s Illegal Distribution Of Prescription Painkillers
Complaint Seeks Forfeiture Of Medical Clinic, Multiple Residences, Bank Accounts And Luxury Vehicles Traced To Ill-Gotten Gains Of Distribution
Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Division, today announced the filing of a civil complaint seeking injunctive relief and penalties against Roger Kaplan and Choice Medical Services, P.C. (“Choice”), formerly known as Choice Spine Joint & Neurology, a clinic that was located in Rocky Point, New York. The complaint also seeks the forfeiture of 13 pieces of real property located in New York and Florida, approximately $400,000 held in bank accounts, as well as a Bentley and other vehicles. Each of the named assets is linked to Choice’s illegal distribution of highly addictive opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. The action, filed in federal court in Central Islip, has been assigned to United States District Judge Leonard D. Wexler. United States v. Roger Kaplan, et al., 16-CV-2601.
As alleged, Choice was managed by Kaplan, a chiropractor who, through a family-owned company, owned the Rocky Point premises where the clinic operated and, who, along with family members, received most of the clinic’s millions of dollars in revenue. The complaint focuses on the period from 2006 to the Spring of 2015, during which doctors employed by Choice prescribed highly addictive opioids to patients despite the absence of any legitimate medical need. One Choice doctor lost her medical license following a proceeding before the New York State Department of Health, Office of Professional Medical Conduct. At the proceeding, that doctor, through her attorney, acknowledged that Choice was a “pill mill.” Another Choice doctor, a sleep specialist, pled guilty in federal court in Central Islip to one count of distribution of a controlled substance in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.
The civil complaint describes the enormous number of opioids prescribed at Choice. For example, according to records maintained by the New York State Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, during a sample 17-month period, the sleep specialist at Choice wrote prescriptions for nearly half a million 30 mg oxycodone tablets alone. On one particular day, the sleep specialist wrote prescriptions for approximately 4,634 dosage units of opioids for the 49 patients he claimed to have seen that day.
In its complaint, the government seeks civil penalties and an injunction against Kaplan and Choice for their roles in issuing prescriptions in violation of federal law. In addition, the government seeks the forfeiture of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains amassed by Choice and disbursed to Kaplan and his family members, who used the funds to, among other things, pay for a number of residences located in Manhattan and in Shoreham, New York, as well as in Florida. The government also seeks to forfeit the clinic and accounts containing the clinic’s illegal proceeds, and vehicles purchased by Kaplan and members of his family with the proceeds, including the Bentley, which Kaplan purchased for more than $163,000.
“We are all too familiar with the devastating harm caused to individuals, and our community as a whole, by the abuse of prescription painkillers. Today’s filing serves as a warning to those who prey on, and profit from, people who have developed addictions to opioids,” stated United States Attorney Capers. “We thank our partners in this coordinated investigation and prosecution to combat the unlawful distribution of opioids.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Hunt stated, “Roger Kaplan’s alleged offenses are an example of how an unscrupulous medical professional can take advantage of vulnerable patients and reap millions of dollars through the illegal prescription of opioids. During the course of an eighteen-month investigation, law enforcement learned that doctors employed by Choice Medical Services, P.C., a now defunct Long Island pill mill which Kaplan controlled, prescribed thousands of pain pills a day to numerous patients in disregard of the patients’ medical conditions and needs. I commend the men and women who worked on this investigation. Identifying and dealing with prescription drug diversion and abuse, and depriving those who engage in such conduct of their ill-gotten gains, is critical to the mission of the DEA.”
Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions throughout the United States. According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), on average 78 Americans died every day from an opioid overdose in 2014. In response to the overwhelming number of prescriptions, and the mounting number of overdoses and deaths, two months ago the CDC issued new guidelines recommending that doctors prescribe less addictive and less powerful pain relievers before prescribing highly addictive drugs, and that they prescribe limited amounts.
This case is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York as part of the Prescription Drug Initiative. In January 2012, this Office and the DEA, in conjunction with the five District Attorneys in this district, the Nassau and Suffolk County Police Departments, the New York City Police Department, and New York State Police, along with other key federal, state and local government partners, launched the Initiative to mount a comprehensive response to the increase in opioid abuse. To date, the Initiative has brought over 160 federal and local criminal prosecutions, including the prosecution of 22 health care professionals. The Initiative also has resulted in civil enforcement actions against a hospital, a pharmacy and a pharmacy chain, the removal of prescription authority from numerous rogue doctors, and the expansion of information-sharing among enforcement agencies to better target and pursue drug traffickers.
The United States’ case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Madeline O’Connor, Laura D. Mantell and Elliot M. Schachner, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Brian S. Gappa.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CV-2601
 The investigation was led by DEA’s Long Island Tactical Diversion Squad comprising agents and officers of the DEA, Nassau County Police Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, Port Washington Police Department and Suffolk County Police Department. In addition, the investigation was assisted by HHS/OIG and the FBI. The Nassau County Police Department Asset Forfeiture Unit also provided invaluable assistance.