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Flushing pharmacists busted in drug ring

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The pharmacists allegedly diverted each week more than 25,000 tablets of the prescription pain killers from drugstores in Queens and Nassau County, including the Utopia Pharmacy at 171-24 46th Ave. in Auburndale, the Shop Wise Pharmacy at 105-23 Liberty Ave. in Ozone Park, and the Rite-Aid Pharmacy at 58-01 Queens Blvd. in Woodside, the DA said.With each Vicodin tablet selling at an $8 to $12 street value, the drug ring grossed in excess of $12.6 million in less than a year and was allegedly run by Dominick Devito, 45, of Howard Beach and 24-year-old Baysider Joseph Pisicchio, two reputed Bonnano, Gambino and Luchese mob family associates, Brown said."This ring was particularly notorious because it corrupted pharmacists in exploiting addicts in the sale of Vicodin at grossly inflated prices," said New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.The accused pharmacists include Peter Grassi, 30, of Flushing. who worked at the Woodside Rite-Aid, Robert Duca Jr., 42, of Roslyn, L.I., and Timothy Scutchfield, 45, from North Bellmore, L.I., both of whom worked at Utopia Pharmacy. In addition, Khader Syed, 74, and Farid Syed, both of Mineola, L.I., and who worked at the Shop-Wise Pharmacy, and Alem Syed Junaid of the Apex Pharmacy in New Hyde Park, L.I., were charged in the drug ring operation.The suspected dealers include Anthino Russo, 27, of Ozone Park; Noah Gross, 21, of Bayside; and Felix Mendez, 27, Kimberly Vargas, 24, and Christopher Manta, 22, all from Flushing.The defendants face various charges including criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal diversion of prescription medications and conspiracy, with some defendants facing up to 15 years in prison. All the pharmacists would lose their state licenses if convicted as well.The bust came at the end of a yearlong investigation triggered by information gathered about an illegal prescription drug ring in Whitestone and involved thousands of hours of surveillance, revealing that the defendants allegedly engaged in hundreds of separate deals involving the sale and distribution of the Vicodin tablets, Brown said. It was not clear what the connection was between the Whitestone operation and the latest series of arrests.According to the district attorney, the pharmacists sold the tablets to Devito for $1 to $1.25 each, and in turn Devito sold the Vicodin pills to dealers for $2 to $2.25 each, and the dealers then sold them on the street, in bars and at local colleges for $8 to $12 a pill. Prosecutors declined to identify the colleges.One loyal patron of the Utopia Pharmacy said Duca and Scutchfield were "very accommodating" pharmacists and expressed bewilderment at the district attorney's announcement."We've always had superior service," said Auburndale resident Eileen Resnick, who has shopped at the pharmacy for 30 years and said Duca and Scutchfield had worked there for about a decade."They're willing to call the doctor, go the extra mile," Resnick said. "If we go on vacation, they always throw in a few pills extra to get us through."Search warrants executed at the pharmacies last week turned up tens of thousands of the pills along with $60,000 in cash, 58 blank doctors' prescription pads, six handguns and small amounts of steroids, cocaine and amphetamine pills, Brown said.The investigation was ongoing, according to the district attorney's office.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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