Schneiderman: We Will Continue To Shut Down Prescription Drug Rings & Hold Traffickers Accountable
(Long Island, NY) Shutting down a major drug operation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced five arrests including Michael A. Mancusi, a major narcotics trafficker in Staten Island who illegally obtained and sold thousands of pills of prescription narcotics, including oxycodone. Mancusi supplied his drug-dealing operation by fraudulently claiming serious and permanent injuries related to motor vehicle accidents, and then applying for Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicaid and Medicare benefits to unlawfully obtain prescription drugs, including oxycodone, alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax) and fentanyl patches. Together with his girlfriend, co-defendant Shannon Daniell, and other co-conspirators, the Mancusi Organization then illegally sold the drugs to buyers throughout New York City and Long Island.
“We have shut down a dangerous scheme that dealt illegal prescription drugs at the taxpayers’ expense. The arrest of this major drug trafficker and his associates will make our streets safer, and sends a message to would-be criminals to think twice before dealing drugs in New York State,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The epidemic of prescription drug abuse has plagued our communities for too long, and we are aggressively fighting to crack down on this crisis with every tool at our disposal. Illegally profiting off the addiction and suffering of others is a crime, and these defendants will be held accountable.”
According to the Attorney General’s felony complaint, filed in Richmond County Criminal Court, following alleged motor vehicle accidents on January 6, 2007 and January 9, 2007, Mancusi made claims for automobile insurance no-fault benefits from American International Group, Inc. and then initiated a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, fraudulently claiming serious injury and protracted pain. Mancusi also used no-fault benefits stemming from those alleged accidents to engage in “doctor-shopping” to find medical providers who would prescribe him oxycodone and other controlled substances. Mancusi then used his fraudulent claims of serious injury and protracted pain to obtain Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and, subsequently, Medicare. Contrary to Mancusi’s claims that he was completely disabled, Office of Attorney General surveillance captured Mancusi walking without a cane, lifting a heavy safe, using a leafblower and driving cars.
Thereafter, defendant Mancusi obtained various prescriptions for controlled substances, including alprazolam, fentanyl and oxycodone, funded by auto insurance no-fault benefits as well as Mancusi’s Medicaid and Medicare benefits. Defendant Mancusi, along with his girlfriend, defendant Shannon Daniell, and other co-conspirators then unlawfully distributed these prescription medications for profit.
Between August 2011 and July 2012 alone, Mancusi was prescribed and dispensed at least 27 prescriptions for oxycodone, a Schedule II narcotic drug, by five different physicians and two physician’s assistants, totaling approximately 5,890 tablets of oxycodone. During this same time period, defendant Mancusi also obtained 13 prescriptions of alprazolam (Xanax), a Schedule IV controlled substance, totaling approximately 1,170 tablets, as well as 12 prescriptions for fentanyl transdermal patches, a Schedule II narcotic drug, totaling approximately 205 patches. Oxycodone is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic, a class of drugs which also includes morphine and heroin. Fentanyl is also a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine. Both drugs are typically used to treat patients with severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery. Alprazolam is a long-lasting depressant belonging to the benzodiazepine family and is typically used therapeutically to produce sedation, induce sleep, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, and to prevent seizures. All three prescription drugs are commonly diverted for illicit use and street sales.
In addition to engaging in doctor-shopping, Mancusi engaged in pharmacy-shopping by filling his various prescriptions at four different pharmacies on Staten Island and one pharmacy in Manhattan. After obtaining the prescriptions, defendants Mancusi and Daniell then sold them to buyers and distributors in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. The defendants sold the Xanax for approximately $5 per pill, the oxycodone for approximately between $7 to $19 per pill, and the fentanyl for approximately $30 per patch, with sales totaling approximately $84,000 from August 2011 to July 2012. According to the felony complaint, the Mancusi Organization’s illegal prescription drug business was so lucrative that, in July 2012, the defendants obtained a cash-counting machine capable of counting 1,200 bills per minute.
In court-ordered search warrants executed by the Attorney General’s investigators at the Mancusi-Daniell residence, dozens of prescription medications were recovered, including fentanyl, oxycodone and alprazolam. The aggregate weight of the narcotics recovered from the Mancusi-Daniell residence exceeded eight ounces. In another search warrant executed in the basement at the same location, OAG investigators recovered bundles of cash and jewelry from inside a large safe.
The felony complaint charges defendant Mancusi with Operating as a Major Trafficker (a class A-I felony); Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree (a class A-I felony); Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (a class A-II felony); Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (a class B felony); Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (a class C felony); Insurance Fraud in the Second Degree (a class C felony); Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a Class C felony); Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class D felony); Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class E felony); Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (a Class E felony), and Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the Fourth Degree (a Class A misdemeanor), among other crimes. Co-defendant Shannon Daniell is charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree (a class A-I felony), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (a class A-II felony), Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (a class B felony), Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (a Class C felony), Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (a Class E felony), and Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications and Prescriptions in the Fourth Degree (a Class A misdemeanor).
In separate felony complaints also filed in Richmond County Criminal Court, three additional defendants were charged. Defendant Daniell’s mother, defendant Nancy Rivera-Daniell, is charged with Attempted Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree (a class E felony), Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree (a class A misdemeanor) and Attempted Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medications in the Fourth Degree (a class B misdemeanor). Defendant Ryan Leuchau is charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (a Class B felony), Attempted Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (a Class C felony) and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (a class E felony), among other charges. Defendant Alixandra Bujka is charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree (a Class A misdemeanor) and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree (a Class A misdemeanor).
If convicted, defendants Mancusi and Daniell each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Defendant Leuchau faces a maximum sentence of 9 years in prison, and defendant Rivera-Daniell faces a maximum sentence of 1 1/2 years in prison.
Today’s arraignments follow a successful effort by Attorney General Schneiderman to overhaul the state’s prescription drug monitoring system in order to prevent cases of doctor shopping and pharmacy shopping like this one. In June the legislature unanimously passed the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP. First introduced by Attorney General Schneiderman last June, I-STOP requires doctors to review a patient’s prescription drug history and update it in real time when writing prescriptions for certain controlled substances. Had such a system been in place at the time that Mancusi committed his crimes, authorities could have detected his doctor-shopping more quickly.
These arrests are the culmination of a long-term investigation conducted jointly by the New York State Attorney General’s Automobile Insurance Fraud Unit (AIFU) and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), including court-ordered wiretaps on telephones used by defendant Mancusi and defendant Daniell.
The Attorney General thanks the following law enforcement partners for their valuable assistance in this case: the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement; the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General; the United States Social Security Administration; the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS); the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office; and the New York City Police Department. The Attorney General also thanks the New York City Human Resources Administration, Department of Social Services, the New York City Metropolitian Transportation Authority and American International Group, Inc.
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said, “Through his criminal scheme, this defendant and his associates victimized both the communities in which he was dealing drugs, and the taxpayers of the entire state who were unwittingly funding his illegal operation. The litany of charges Attorney General Schneiderman has brought against him is an indication of the seriousness of his crimes, and my office will continue to assist in this effort to protect the public.”
The case is being prosecuted jointly by the Attorney General’s Automobile Insurance Fraud (AIFU) and Medical Fraud Control Unit (MFCU). AIFU Assistant Attorneys General Milton Yu and Chin-Ho Cheng, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau are prosecuting the case, together with MFCU Assistant Attorney General Crystal Barrow and Deputy Regional Director Christopher Shaw under the supervision of MFCU Chief of Criminal Investigations Kelly Donovan and Special Deputy Attorney General Monica Hickey-Martin, all under Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Nancy Hoppock. The case was investigated by AIFU Investigator Michael Houlihan and AIFU Legal Analysts Lori Alden and Paul Strocko, under the supervision of AIFU Deputy Chief Leonard D’Alessandro, and MFCU Special Investigators Albert Maiorano and James Serra and Chief Investigator Vito Spano, all under Deputy Chief John Reidy and Chief Dominick Zarella of the Investigations Bureau, and MFCU Special Auditor-Investigator Kashmir Singh, under the supervision of MFCU New York City Regional Chief Auditor Thomasina Piccolo-Smith.
The charges against the defendants are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.