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Alleged drug distribution for Far Rockaway pharmacist, Cedarhurst resident

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Daniel Russo, a Cedarhurst resident who works as a pharmacist in Far Rockaway, was indicted on conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, distribution and possession of oxycodone, distribution of oxycodone by a pharmacist without a legitimate prescription and filing false tax returns in Brooklyn federal court on Jan. 23.

Russo, 40, was arrested on that Thursday and arraigned the same day. He was released on a $1.5 million bond. Based on the 12-count indictment that was also unsealed on Jan. 23. Russo owns and operates Russo’s Pharmacy in Far Rockaway.

Between March 2011 and June 2014, he allegedly conspired with others, including medical professionals and employees of a doctor, to fill bogus prescriptions for oxycodone and dispense thousands of oxycodone pills in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. 

He then filed fraudulent corporate income tax returns for his pharmacy from 2013 through 2016, omitting the proceeds of his scheme, and false individual income tax returns from 2012 through 2016. 

Russo is charged with failing to report more than $1 million in cash earnings, most of it generated from his oxycodone distribution scheme.  More than a dozen doctors for whom Russo filled prescriptions have since been convicted of crimes related to the distribution of oxycodone, officials said.

“We can count the hundreds of thousands of dollars Russo allegedly pocketed from the charged scheme, but the resulting human misery in our communities is incalculable,” United States Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a news release. “This office will continue working with federal and local law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute medical professionals who seek to profit from the opioid epidemic.” 

If convicted of the drug charges, Russo faces up to 20 years in prison.  If convicted of the tax charges, he faces up to three years for each count.

“It is a misconception that pharmacists can hide their role in illegal drug distribution by blindly following what doctors have prescribed for their patients,” DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan said in the release. “By law, pharmacists must practice due diligence, and take their corresponding responsibility seriously.  Today’s arrest reemphasizes law enforcement’s commitment to identifying and arresting all of those responsible for furthering drug abuse and overdose deaths throughout our hometowns.”

The investigation was led by the DEA’s Long Island Tactical Diversion Squad, including agents and officers of the DEA, Nassau and Suffolk police departments, and the Port Washington and Rockville Centre police departments. 

The DEA Tactical Diversion Squad also worked in conjunction with officers and agents of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General and New York City Department of Investigation. 

“Income earned from the sale of prescription drugs is taxable regardless if those sales are legal or illegal,” IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Jonathan Larsen said in the release. “Mr. Russo allegedly failed to report the illegal income on his corporate tax returns in conjunction with concealing how the income was derived.”