What to Know
A NY doctor faces manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in connection with three overdose deaths, sources say
The deaths resulted from prescriptions he wrote for addictive pain killers and other controlled substances, law enforcement sources say
Lawrence Choy was arrested in Wisconsin in March by the DEA and will appear in Manhattan Supreme Court Thursday afternoon
A doctor who ran a Queens medical practice faces manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges in connection with three overdose deaths resulting from prescriptions he wrote for addictive pain killers and other controlled substances, law enforcement sources say.
Lawrence Choy, 65, an internist and nephrologist who was arrested in Wisconsin in March by the DEA was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court Thursday afternoon and was remanded, according to a spokesman for the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor.
The spokesman had no further details.
John Martin, Choy's attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Choy's indictment contains a total of 231 counts, including two counts of manslaughter in the second degree, nine counts of reckless endangerment in the second degree and 220 counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance.
Choy allegedly began issuing high numbers of prescriptions for a trio of drugs often referred to as the “holy trinity,” an opioid, a benzodiazepine, and a muscle relaxant, after an investigation began of more than $1 million he owed in taxes.
Charges also relate to 14 patients to whom Choy allegedly issued prescriptions other than in good faith in the course of his professional practice, authorities say. Three of these patients died of prescription drug overdoses between 2013 and 2016. These drugs are known to be favored by people suffering from substance abuse and those reselling the pills on the black market.
The overdose deaths occurred in Queens and Suffolk County, the sources said.
The manslaughter charges Choy faces are in connection to the overdoses of Eliot Castillo and Michael Ries. Both fatally overdosed within three days of receiving prescriptions, authorities say.
The nine counts of reckless endangerment are in connection to eight surviving patients and deceased patient Daniel Barry.
Choy allegedly received notice that Barry was undergoing treatment for substance abuse, but continued to prescribe him opioid painkillers.
Starting in 2012, Choy's prescribing practices changed dramatically and he began prescribing a high number of oxycodone and multiple prescriptions for controlled substances at the same time to individual patients, authorities allege, adding that these prescriptions were for addictive medication in allegedly inapproprate high dosages, pill counts and in potentially lethal combinations.
Choy, who has been a licensed physician since 1981, also allegedly falsified dates on prescription forms so that new prescriptions could be issued before their renewal dates
Authorities say Choy abruptly closed his Flushing, Queens, medical practice in 2017 after he was visited by investigators and moved to Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Agents from the DEA’s Milwaukee District Office arrested Choy on March 29, 2018 at his residence in Wisconsin. Choy was released on bail set by a judge in Sheboygan pending extradition proceedings. He returned to New York earlier this week to face these charges.
“Dr. Choy’s blatant disregard to the practice of medicine became a parent’s worst nightmare and an opioid addict’s dream,” DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt said in a statement. “Similar investigations into the diversion of prescription medication have put doctors at the same level as drug kingpins; both types of traffickers push millions of doses of opioids into our communities leaving grieving families in their wakes.”