Sept. 10, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
A Flushing doctor has been sentenced to seven years in prison for the illegal sale of controlled substances that led to the death of at least two of his patients, the Queens District Attorney’s Office has announced.
Lawrence Choy, 66, pleaded guilty in June to the manslaughter of two of his patients. He also pleaded guilty to the reckless endangerment of five other patients, including one who fatally overdosed.
Choy was sentenced to seven years in prison, with a further two years of post-release supervision by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Ann Scherzer on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Choy admitted to illegally selling prescriptions for lethal dosages of opioids and other controlled substances from his medical office at 142-20 Franklin Ave. in Flushing. He also failed to perform adequate examinations or follow up on signs of substance abuse.
In total, he pleaded guilty to 27 counts of illegally selling prescriptions.
Choy was arrested in 2018 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where he had fled after abandoning his medical practice.
The manslaughter charges relate to the deaths of Eliot Castillo, 35, and Michael Ries, 30, in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Castillo died on Feb. 23, 2013 in Jamaica, Queens due to a lethal combination of an opioid pain reliever called oxycodone and an anxiety pill called alprazolam, which was prescribed by Choy. The DA’s office said that Castillo’s health gradually worsened during the 11 months he was treated by Choy.
Ries, meanwhile, fatally overdosed a year later on March 23 in Hauppauge, Long Island due to the combined effects of oxycodone, alprazolam and a muscle relaxant called carisoprodol. The combination is known to have effect on breathing and increase the risk of death.
Choy prescribed Ries with the deadly combination regularly, even as his health deteriorated.
Both men died within three days of receiving prescriptions from Choy, the DA’s office said.
Acting Queens DA John Ryan said that Choy was at fault for his patients’ deaths and said that the liberal dispensing of prescription drugs had led to a crisis in the United States.
“Dispensing opioid drugs like popcorn at a movie theater is partially to blame for the epidemic of deadly overdoses that has gripped this country in the last several years,” Ryan said. “Dr. Choy’s irresponsible and illegal actions caused the deaths of two of his patients. The prison term ordered by the Court is more than warranted.”
The long-term investigation into Choy’s criminal activity was conducted by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Prescription Drug Investigation Unit and the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, along with assistance from other agencies.
Choy had been a licensed physician since 1981 and specialized in internal medicine and nephrology, which involves the treatment of a kidney disease.