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Five Arrested for Running Staten Island Drug Ring

By Nicholas Rizzi | August 15, 2012 9:02pm

STATEN ISLAND — Five people have been arrested for allegedly running a complex prescription drug ring on Staten Island, the attorney general said Wednesday.

Michael Mancusi, 27, of Staten Island, allegedly ran the operation and illegally obtained over 5,000 oxycodone pills in one year by fraudulently filing claims to insurance companies for injuries related to car accidents, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

Mancusi and four others — including his girlfriend, Shannon Daniell, 23, and her mother, Nancy Rivera-Daniell, 53 — then allegedly sold the pills throughout New York City and Long Island, the attorney general said.

“We have shut down a dangerous scheme that dealt illegal prescription drugs at the taxpayers’ expense," Schneiderman said in a press release. "The arrest of this major drug trafficker and his associates will make our streets safer and sends a message to would-be criminals to think twice before dealing drugs in New York state."

Mancusi allegedly got the pills by filing false injury claims to car insurance companies and a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for serious injuries and prolonged pain, the attorney general said.

Mancusi allegedly used the claims from the lawsuit to obtain Medicaid, social security disability insurance benefits and Medicare. He then allegedly used the no-fault benefits and Medicaid to visit multiple doctors and obtain prescriptions for drugs, court documents said.

"Through his criminal scheme, this defendant and his associates victimized both the communities in which he was dealing drugs and the taxpayers of the entire state who were unwittingly funding his illegal operation," said Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan in a statement.

The arrest comes one month after the attorney general's I-STOP law, which aims to curb prescription drug abuse and stop "doctor shopping," was passed.

Even though Mancusi said he was completely disabled, surveillance by the attorney general's office allegedly caught him lifting a heavy safe, walking without a cane, driving cars and using a leaf blower, court documents said.

Between August 2011 and July 2012, Mancusi's alleged operation made around $84,000 through the sale of oxycodone, Xanax and fentanyl, the attorney general said.

The ring allegedly became so lucrative that the operation purchased a machine that could count 1,200 bills per minute, court papers said.

Mancusi was arraigned on charges of drug trafficking, criminal possession of a controlled substance, insurance fraud, grand larceny and several other counts Wednesday, the attorney general's office said.

He was ordered to be held without bail, and his next court date is set for Sept. 25.

Mancusi's alleged accomplices include Daniell, Rivera-Daniell, Ryan Luechau, 26, and Alixandra Bujka, 27.

If convicted, Mancusi and Daniell could face up to 20 years in prison. Luechau faces up to nine years behind bars. River-Daniell could be sentenced to up to one-and-a-half years and Bujka up to one year.