Former patient: Doctor on trial knew of my addiction to painkillers
A former patient testified in federal court Monday that her Baldwin Harbor doctor, who is on trial for illegally distributing painkiller, had once prescribed her 740 oxycodone pills although he knew she was addicted and illegally shared or sold the pills for a profit.
Nancy Cook, 40, an East Rockaway mother of two girls, is the second patient and prosecution witness to testify against Dr. Leonard Stambler, 62, who is charged with conspiracy to contribute and aiding the distribution of oxycodone, a potentially addictive painkiller.
"He knew," Cook told jurors before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco in Central Islip. "We had talked about it openly many times before that."
Under cross examination by Stambler's attorney, Gary Schoer of Syosset, Cook admitted that she repeatedly lied to Stambler during 2010-11 regarding the severity of her back pain. She had suffered from back pain for more than a decade but said she exaggerated to get the physician to prescribe more of the opiate with greater frequency.
"We used every lie imaginable to get them from Dr. Lenny," said Cook, who said she met Stambler at a deli where she used to work and eventually became his patient and friend.
Stambler, arrested in November 2011 by Drug Enforcement Administration agents following a crackdown, is the first Long Island doctor to stand trial on charges of illegally distributing prescription painkiller. Stambler was one of a number of Long Island physicians arrested in the illegal sale of oxycodone. He faces anywhere from probation to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Assistant United States Attorney Allen Bode said Stambler, who does not have an office or staff, was "a lonely guy" who illegally prescribed oxycodone to drug-addicted patients to win their friendship.
Stambler's attorney, however, said his client is a "caring person" who used his medical judgment in legally prescribing the narcotic to help alleviate his patients' pain.
Cook, who received immunity from prosecution for her testimony, admitted in court that she sold oxycodone from her kitchen on a dozen occasions, 20 pills each time.
Under questioning by Schoer, Cook also acknowledged Stambler was concerned about her excessive use of the painkiller.
"He would tell you to cut back, right?" Shoer asked.
"Ah. Yes," Cook replied.
Cook's boyfriend, Christopher Adams, 36, testified last week he filled a prescription from Stambler at a pharmacy for $1 a pill and resold it for $10 a pill.
A defense witness, Dr. Alexander Weingarten, an anesthesiologist, testified Monday that what is considered a "large quantity" of pills varies from patient to patient. A cancer patient, for example, needs more opiate to alleviate the pain.
"Every patient is unique," he said. "Every pain is unique."
The trial, in its second week, is scheduled to resume Wednesday. Weingarten, who testified out of order to accommodate his schedule, is scheduled to return to the witness stand Thursday morning, when he'll be cross-examined by the government.