Authorities from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and NYPD busted a trafficking ring accused of setting up phony Sheepshead Bay medical practices to dole out prescriptions for highly addictive drugs, including oxycodone and Xanax.
Following a nine-month wiretap investigation, authorities yesterday said they arrested five members of the prescription drug trafficking ring that illegally raked in $3.4 million in bogus prescription drug sales through medical practices they controlled.
Sergey Plotits, 50, of Brightwater Court, was named as the ring leader and charged with conspiracy in the fourth degree and 16 counts of criminal sale of a prescription or controlled substance. According to the indictment, Plotits established medical offices in Sheepshead Bay and nearby neighborhoods for the sole purpose of illegally distributing large quantities of the highly addictive narcotics.
Plotits allegedly hired Zhanna Kanevsky to work as a physician and write prescriptions at a medical office he established at 1763 East 12th Street, then recruited three additional defendants – Rostislav Vilshteyn, Emil Shumunov and Alla Kuratova – to recruit phony patients. The patients were rarely examined by the doctors, and were paid in cash for obtaining prescriptions, prosecutors say.
Four of the five were arrested yesterday morning, and agents seized medical records in a raid on Kanevsky’s Staten Island home.
According to the indictment, the conspiracy ran from August 2011 to the present, with the defendants collecting and distributing more than 180,000 prescription plls, including approximately 170,000 pills of oxycodone, a painkilling opiate similar to heroin, and 12,000 pills of Xanax, an addictive anti-anxiety medication. Some of the prescriptions were redeemed at local pharmacies using taxpayer-funded Medicaid coverage, prosecutors say.
According to local police, prescription drug abuse in the precinct remains on the rise since 2009 – particularly for painkillers like oxycodone. The narcotic problem is said by police to be one of the leading factors driving other crimes, particularly robbery, burglary, auto break-ins and other property crimes, as the expensive habit spurs addicts to look for easy money.
“Some of these individuals need up to 10 [pills]a day,” said Deputy Inspector Georgios Mastrokostas, former commander of the 61st Precinct, at a community meeting last year. “So you’re talking about a habit where they need $200 a day to support this habit.”
Although no other busts were made in this case, the papers indicate that investigators believe Plotits operates other clinics and employs other doctors for the same scheme, and that doctors were paid by Plotits by the hour or by the day.
Kanevsky is accused of working with the ring for the 17 months leading up to May 2013, writing the majority of the phony presriptions – approximately 100,000 pills of oxycodone and 5,000 pills of Xanax – with a street value of $2 million.
It’s not her first offense, either. In 2005, Kanevsky was busted for her role in a Queens-based no-fault auto insurance fraud ring, in which she was the owner of record for East Elm Medical and Balance for Life Medical Diagnostic. The clinics evaluated phony patients claiming to have been hurt in auto accidents and provided false medical reports backing up their supposed injuries in order to bilk insurance companies. She pleaded guilty and was given a year of probation, while the State Board of Medical Conduct put her medical license on probation for three years.
Similarly, another defendant in the case, Rostislav “Steve” Vilshteyn of Staten Island, was sentenced in 2012 to five years in New Jersey state prison and ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution after being convicted for defrauding Medicaid. Vilshteyn was the owner and operator of the Bloomfield Health Pavilion, a medical clinic that submitted fraudulent medical claims for counseling services he never provided.
UPDATE (4:43 p.m.): We were curious why Vilshteyn was out roaming the streets of Sheepshead Bay, looking for phony patients, when he should have been serving the first year of his five year sentence in New Jersey state prison. So we got in touch with the New Jersey Department of Corrections, who got in touch with the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, and, lo’ and behold, Vilshteyn was released pending an appeal.
The Department of Corrections told Sheepshead Bites that the judge and the attorney general will be notified of the latest arrest.