New York psychiatrist sentenced to house arrest on prescriptions for cash conviction
December 10, 2012
An 82-year-old New City psychiatrist who has admitted to illegally giving out prescription drugs was sentenced today to three months' home confinement, a year’s probation, and a $1,000 fine.
Dr. Aristide Esser faced up to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty in June before U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas in White Plains.
But on Friday Karas largely agreed with the lower end of federal guidelines, which didn’t call for prison time, though he sentenced Esser to more than John E. Finnegan, a lawyer for Esser, asked for in pre-sentencing court papers.
Finnegan could not immediately be reached for comment today.
Esser was caught up in a prescription-drug sting that ensnared more than a dozen arrests in November 2011, including that of a Ramapo psychiatrist.
Prosecutors have said during the preceding investigation Esser told a cooperating witness that he would "gladly medicate" the witness's friends, should they need prescriptions.
Esser's 2011 conduct, they added, was just the latest in a string of incidents regarding his alleged over-prescription of drugs.
Esser was ordered to stop prescribing opiates after a 2001 investigation by the state Department of Health, which accused him of giving opiates to substance abusers without proper evaluation or monitoring, according to court papers.
Finnegan said in pre-sentencing papers that the psychiatrist had a distinguished career before it was derailed in 2011 by at least four incidents in which he illegally prescribed Seconal, a sedative, to cooperating witnesses. Esser's conduct was illegal, Finnegan said, but did not fit the pattern of recent arrests of doctors, many of whom are accused of operating so-called "pill mills."
"He was not engaged in 'drug dealing' in the traditional sense of the term, involving large-scale distribution for profit," Finnegan wrote, adding that some of Esser's prescriptions resulted from patients' "skillful manipulations and persistence."
In the sentencing memorandum, Finnegan said Esser grew up in Indonesia during the Japanese occupation in World War II. Esser's father and uncle were executed by the Japanese. Esser moved to Holland in 1946, before eventually going to medical school and, in 1961, coming to the United States to serve as a research fellow at Yale University. He later moved to Rockland County, where he practiced psychiatry for decades.
Source: "New City psychiatrist, 82, sentenced in prescription drug case," Journal News, December 7, 2012
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