Dr. Arnold Roth is a 62-year-old anesthesiologist in Westchester, New York. In 16 months, he wrote prescriptions for 16,000 painkillers worth over $480,000 dollars. Dozens died of overdoses during that time around his office. His sentence? One to three years in Groveland Correctional Facility, a cupcake medium security prison that used to be for women only.
And this slim sentence isn’t an anomaly. The Poughkeepsie Journal found that in 26 doctor-dealer cases from 2009-2014, only four were sentenced to more than four years. In other words, I’d get more prison time if I got caught pirating movies four different times than 22 of the big time drug-dealing doctors.
Dr. Robert Gibbs, a Harlem pulmonologist (a doctor that deals with diseases of the respiratory tract, not Bill Pullman), wrote prescriptions for more than a “million oxycodone” pills and got five years probation. Dr. Felix Lanting, a family medicine doctor from Staten Island, wrote 3,000 oxycodone prescriptions for $300 cash a pop and got six months of house arrest. Dr. Wayne Longmore of Woodstock wrote around $60 dollar prescriptions for 5,000 hydrocodone pills. He got six months of house arrest and three years of probation.
New York state law defines selling a prescription as a Class-C felony under “first degree forgery” and punishable for one to five and a half years in prison. Other Class C felonies are assault on a judge (who does this outside of daytime TV?) and selling lots of weed. It’s safe to say that New York doesn’t “C” many of these. Criminal sale of a controlled substance is a Class A-1 felony that shares the ranks with terrorism, murder and arson. These doctors are literally getting away with murder because of a law against forgery. So even if the judge wanted to throw away these doctors for 50 years, he legally couldn’t because their maximum sentence is shorter than the number of years Big Bang Theory has been on the air.
Doctors are usually first time offenders, having spent most of their lives in school and working. It’s not until later in life that bills and egos pile up. Prison terms are greatly affected by their levels of cooperation, what they do in the community besides sell prescriptions and whether or not they plead guilty. If all three check out, they usually get the minimum sentence or close to it. In a Class-C felony case, that’s no more than 12 months. Their age and health is also taken into consideration. All the doctors mentioned in the Poughkeepsie Journal story are between the ages of 75 and 86. The courts also think that the bulk of their punishment is losing their medical license and payment of huge fines. Tell that to the families of their dead “patients.”
Nassau County’s DA Kathleen Rice says that the laws need to change and that they need to “eliminate the meaningless distinction between illegally selling drugs and illegally selling access to those drugs.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, sister. New York Sen. George Maziarz, R-Lockport has announced that he’s going to co-sponsor legislation to change the law after hearing about a doctor in his district who traded a grill and other goods for prescriptions so that there was no money trail.
Some of these docs get off easier than you can imagine. Dr. Shaikh Hasan, a family practitioner in Brooklyn, was able to keep his medical license after he was busted. Contemplate that while thinking about the 26-year-old guy in Wappingers Falls who got 15 years at a maximum-security prison for being in possession of a wimpy $2,700 dollars worth of heroin. It’s all relative, though, right? Wrong. Send these egomaniacs and leased Porsche drivers to jail for decades. An apple a day doesn’t keep the doctor away—and neither does letting them off easy.