- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) - A former suburban New York physician faces up to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges in an ongoing crackdown of prescription painkiller abuse.

Dr. Eric Jacobson, who had a practice in the tony Long Island community of Great Neck, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip to 19 counts of illegally distributing the painkiller oxycodone.

Jacobson, 51, had been the target of a federal investigation following the June 2011 killing of four people inside a Long Island pharmacy by a gunman who later admitted he was hunting for painkillers. In December 2011, Jacobson voluntarily surrendered his Drug Enforcement Agency license to distribute controlled substances.

But despite surrendering the license, Jacobson continued to issue unauthorized painkiller prescriptions to 19 patients, prosecutors said.

“Instead of providing needed medical services to his community, Dr. Jacobson directly contributed to the tragedy of prescription drug abuse that has swept across our district and our nation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

Jacobson had allegedly written prescriptions for the confessed killer in the pharmacy shootings, David Laffer, but Monday’s plea agreement involved only other patients. Prosecutors had indicated in the lead-up to a possible trial against Jacobson that they intended to call Laffer and his wife, Melinda Brady, as witnesses.

Laffer is serving life without parole. His wife, who drove the getaway car following the pharmacy killings, is serving a 25-year sentence.

The killings of two store employees and two customers at the Medford pharmacy on a quiet Father’s Day morning touched off investigations by state and federal prosecutors into the illegal distribution of painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Jacobson is the fourth physician to either be convicted or plead guilty to federal drug distribution charges on Long Island as a result of those investigations. A fifth physician is awaiting trial.

State prosecutors are also actively targeting physicians. Dr. Stan Li is currently on trial in Manhattan on manslaughter charges after prosecutors said several patients of his died after being given prescriptions for painkillers.

Jacobson faces seven to nine years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 7.

Defense attorney Bruce Barket told reporters after Monday’s proceeding that his client was getting a “tough, but fair resolution.”

In addition to the prison term, Jacobson has agreed to forfeit $250,000 he received in income for selling the prescriptions.

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