A New York doctor, his assistant, and a pediatric nurse practitioner face 20 years in prison after being arrested Thursday on federal charges of writing thousands of phony prescriptions for fentanyl and oxycodone, law enforcement officials said.
Ernesto Lopez, 74, a New York-licensed doctor who operates medical clinics in Manhattan, Flushing, and Franklin Square, is accused, along with his assistant, 49-year-old Audra Baker, of accepting cash payments in exchange for the prescriptions, court papers say.
Lopez typically charged $200 to $300 in cash for patient visits during which he allegedly performed perfunctory examinations and then prescribed large quantities of oxycodone and fentanyl patches. Since 2015, Lopez wrote more than 8,000 prescriptions and collected $2 million in fees, prosecutors said.
Baker, Lopez’s assistant at two of his clinics, allegedly steered patients to an individual who could buy the prescriptions and resell the drugs on the street, court papers say.
Also charged is Sharon Washington-Bhamre, 52, a pediatric nurse practitioner who allegedly also wrote numerous oxycodone prescriptions in the name of individuals she never examined but whose names were provided to her by the same individual who purchased the medically unnecessary prescriptions from Dr. Lopez.
“As alleged, these defendants acted like drug dealers in lab coats, directly contributing to the glut of highly-addictive opioids flooding the streets of New York City and its surrounding communities," Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement.
The investigation and arrests were conducted by the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad comprised of investigators from the DEA, NYPD, and NYC Department of Investigation.
Lopez, Baker, and Washington-Bhamre were to appear in federal court in Manhattan Thursday.
It wasn't immediately known if they had an attorney.