Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Nurse Practitioner For Illegally Distributing Oxycodone From Bronx Clinic
Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Raymond P. Donovan, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), and Dermot Shea, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced today the unsealing of a criminal Complaint in Manhattan federal court charging PURIFICACION CRISTOBAL, a nurse practitioner who operated a medical clinic in the Bronx, New York, with illegally distributing large quantities of oxycodone. CRISTOBAL was taken into custody this morning and is expected to be presented before Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn later today.
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As alleged, Purificacion Cristobal wrote prescriptions for highly addictive and potentially lethal opioids not based on medical necessity but on the payment of cash ‘gratuities’ by the ‘patients.’”
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Raymond P. Donovan said: “This investigation reiterates that drug traffickers can hide in plain sight, as was allegedly done by Purificacion Cristobal, a nurse practitioner who worked at a medical clinic in the Bronx. Allegedly, Cristobal enabled opioid users by writing hundreds of unnecessary prescriptions, putting tens of thousands of oxycodone tablets into unsupervised hands. Law enforcement is committed to identifying drug traffickers at all levels to keep our communities safe from the dangers of drug abuse, drug addiction, and drug-related violence.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said: “These charges represent an alleged betrayal of medicine and the law for an illegal profit. They highlight law enforcement’s ongoing commitment to investigate and prosecute anyone charged with illegally peddling opioids.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[]
Since June 2019, PURIFICACION CRISTOBAL has illicitly diverted large quantities of oxycodone, unlawfully writing numerous prescriptions resulting in the distribution of tens of thousands of oxycodone pills to individuals she knew had no legitimate medical need for the pills. In exchange for these prescriptions, CRISTOBAL and her staff at the Bronx clinic received cash payments or “gratuities” from the purported patients.
As alleged in the Complaint, CRISTOBAL, a certified nurse practitioner, operated a medical clinic in the Bronx. Despite being certified to practice in psychiatry, family medicine, and pediatrics, CRISTOBAL regularly wrote more than 100 prescriptions for oxycodone per month, including prescriptions for some of the staff in her practice. In total, from January 2019 to June 2020, CRISTOBAL wrote over 1,700 prescriptions for oxycodone, accounting for over 140,000 oxycodone tablets.
As detailed in the allegations set forth in the Complaint, CRISTOBAL performed little to no physical examination on purported patients receiving oxycodone prescriptions. For example, on one occasion, without having performed any examination, CRISTOBAL asked a patient to choose which prescription drugs the patient preferred. On another occasion, CRISTOBAL prescribed oxycodone after confirming it was the patient’s “favorite” drug. CRISTOBAL even sometimes wrote prescriptions for oxycodone when the patients did not ever enter the clinic for a visit, so long as they paid the cash fees due for the illicit oxycodone.
* * *
PURIFICACION CRISTOBAL, 73, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, is charged with one count of participating in a conspiracy to illicitly distribute narcotics, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s New York Tactical Diversion Squad, which comprises agents and officers from the DEA, the NYPD, the New York State Police, New York State Department of Financial Services, New York National Guard, New York City Department of Investigation, and New York State Department of Health Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Jun Xiang and Kyle A. Wirshba are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.