A Smithtown physician, who once had his license suspended for practicing while under the influence of drugs, was arrested by federal agents Friday on charges of illegally prescribing narcotics and tranquilizers, including oxycodone and methadone, according to court papers.
Dr. Mitchel Fagin surrendered to Drug Enforcement Administration agents at the federal courthouse in Central Islip on an indictment charging him with a dozen counts of prescribing the drugs for no medical reason between 2010 and 2014.
In some cases, Fagin allegedly traded prescriptions for controlled substances or the drugs themselves in return for "sexual favors" from female patients, according to a bail letter filed by Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz.
Each of the counts involved the distribution of a drug to a patient on a single day.
But at Fagin's arraignment in federal District Court in Central Islip, Treinis Gatz said that the investigation is continuing and each count represented only a "small subset of his practice."
Fagin, 63, who was in a wheelchair, pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $200,000 bond on condition he surrender his DEA license to prescribe narcotics and undergo drug testing.
If convicted, Fagin could face up to 20 years on each count.
Fagin's attorney, Anthony Collelouri of Woodbury, said afterward that officials misunderstand his client's practice, adding, "I see this guy as trying to help patients." Collelouri said Fagin was in a wheelchair because he had recently suffered a relapse of his Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Fagin's license was suspended by the state in 1983 for two years, Treinis Gatz wrote.
Between August 1982 and January 1983, several different New York City hospitals "discovered that Fagin had diverted and self-administered opioid medication that was intended for patients," Treinis Gatz wrote. "Moreover, staff at Stony Brook University Hospital also determined that Fagin was self-administering and abusing pain medication."
Earlier in the day, defense attorney Collelouri said the latest charges were "a government attempt to interfere with a family doctor's" medical practice, trying to oversee how a doctor should best serve his patients.
In her bail letter, Treinis Gatz also said that since his license was originally suspended in the 1980s, Fagin has had other problems with drugs. In 1993 Fagin temporarily suspended his medical license and entered a treatment program after investigators discovered he had become addicted to Vicodin, a type of the narcotic hydrocodone, and obtained the pills by filling prescriptions he wrote under the names of fictitious patients, she said.
Further, the prosecutor wrote, the Health Department found that Fagin had improperly prescribed narcotics to patients in 2004, 2011 and 2012.
State Health Department records online go back only to 1990, and Fagin is currently listed as having a physician's license on its site.
A spokesman for the state Health Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
In an Associated Press report in 1983, the state Board for Professional Medical Conduct described Fagin as "a habitual user of the narcotic Demerol" since 1981, and state health Commissioner David Axelrod said he was "an imminent danger" to the health of his patients.
The AP report said Fagin had no comment to the charges. They included allegations that while working at various hospitals he obtained Demerol, claiming it was for patients, but injected it into himself.