The investigation into a doctor accused of peddling prescriptions for opioids led authorities to make another drug bust, this time of a couple producing marijuana-laced gummy bears along with others who facilitated the physician’s scheme, officials said on Friday.
Authorities arrested John Marcolini, 48, of Sugar Maple Road in Levittown, the leader of a group that allegedly funneled fake patients to the doctor, Ernesto Lopez.
Eric Fortmeyer, and his wife, Christine Fortmeyer, were found to have two labs in their North Bellmore home where they made the concentrated cannabis, extracting the oils and injecting it into vape pens and gummy bears, officials said
Overall, officials made 14 arrests and pulled $70,000 worth of cannabis from the Fortmeyer home on Hazel Street, officials said.
“It’s two days after Halloween. Their 11-year-old son was playing his games next door to where this was being pumped into the gummy bears,” said acting Nassau police commissioner Patrick Ryder. “What’s the difference between the candy he received in the street and the candy that was in his house? Well, this candy would kill him if it was taken by a young enough child.”
Investigators also seized glass jars, beakers, tubing, a vacuum pump, syringes, scales and cash along with drugs such as oxycodone, Adderall and assorted oils and marijuana, police said.
Lopez operated clinics in Franklin Square, Manhattan and Jackson Heights, Queens. He’s accused of illegally writing thousands of “medically unnecessary” prescriptions for oxycodone pills and fentanyl patches, according to officials.
Lopez, pediatric nurse-practitioner Sharon Washington-Bhamre and Audra Baker, one of the doctor’s employees, were each charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, officials said.
Lopez, 74, of Flushing; Baker, 49, of Manhattan; and Washington-Bhamre, 52, of Rochelle Park, New Jersey, were arraigned Thursday night in federal court in Manhattan.
Bond was set at $200,000 for Lopez, and $100,000 each for Baker and Washington-Bhamre, the U.S. attorney’s office said. It was not known Friday morning if any of the defendants had posted bond.
All three defendants were also ordered to surrender their travel documents, prosecutors said.
Between 2015 and last month, Lopez made an estimated $2 million by writing more than 8,000 oxycodone prescriptions alone without performing “meaningful physical examinations of patients,” according to the criminal complaint.
The usual examination of a patient who got a prescription from Lopez consisted of the doctor recording a patient’s vital signs and at times briefly moving the person’s limbs, officials said.
Lopez charged $200 to $300 in cash for each visit, according to the complaint.
The scheme also allegedly involved patients selling the drugs to a dealer, who then resold the powerful painkillers on the street.
With Robert E. Kessler
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