Embattled physician Richard Lucente made a small apology to his patients on May 12 when he was given a judicial slap on the wrist for providing illegal steroids to borough juicers that were doled out of a Bay Ridge Pharmacy like candy.
Adhering to an earlier plea arrangement, Judge Abraham Gerges sentenced Lucente to five years’ probation and 200 hours of community service for prescribing steroids and human growth hormone to scores of people “for no legitimate purpose.” He will also have to give up practicing medicine for two years.
The deal brought an anti-climactic end to a saga that had riveted Bay Ridge and Staten Island for years.
Lucente, who saw patients at the New York Anti-Aging and Wellness Center on Staten Island, had a patient list that included 19 police officers and several weight lifters, many from Brooklyn. It also included body-builder Joseph Baglio, whose prolonged steroid abuse damaged his heart so badly that he needed a transplant before meeting Lucente.
Baglio died of heart failure in 2007 after Lucente supplied him with a host of testosterone, steroid and human growth hormone prescriptions with full knowledge of his medical history. Lucente claimed that the prescriptions were for Baglio’s “testosterone deficiency,” prosecutors said.
Once he wrote the prescriptions, Lucente sent his patients to Lowen’s Drug Store, on Third Avenue between Ovington and Bay Ridge avenues.
As early as 2004, Lowen’s had marketed itself “as a source for compounded hormones, including testosterone to physicians in Brooklyn and Staten Island,” according to an indictment.
Lowen’s reportedly paid Lucente almost $30,000 in kickbacks between 2005 and 2007 for steering steroid patients its way. He also received $530,000 from the 220 clients to whom he provided steroid prescriptions, according to court papers.
During a prolonged criminal investigation that included at least two raids at Lowen’s, owner John Rossi, 56, took his own life in an office above the pharmacy in January, 2008. Family friends said that the investigation, and the prospect of going to prison, weighed heavily on him.
Criminal charges against Lowen’s were dropped after the suicide. The Rossi family sold the business shortly after the pharmacist’s death.
During the sentencing, Lucente said that he wanted to “apologize to my friends, my family and my patients.” He did not mention Lowen’s.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Spanakos said he was pleased with the deal, even though Lucente was facing 30 years in prison before it was made.
“He is a convicted felon,” Spanakos said. “He is not writing prescriptions.”
Lucente’s attorney John Meringolo was a bit more brazen in his remarks.
“[The DA] wanted 30 years. They didn’t get 30 minutes,” he told reporters.