Jury finds operator of pill mill guilty of oxycodone distribution

Jury Trial news graphic

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that a jury returned a guilty verdict against Purificacion Cristobal for her participation in a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose acting outside the usual course of professional practice. 

Cristobal was also convicted of two counts of oxycodone distribution pertaining to specific prescriptions.  She was found not guilty of other counts of oxycodone distribution pertaining to other prescriptions.  Cristobal will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla, who presided over the approximately two-week trial.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Purificacion Cristobal prescribed powerful medications to patients, some of whom had no medical need for them and were likely selling them, thereby contributing to the flow of highly potent drugs into the black markets of New York.  We trust medical professionals to responsibly handle potentially harmful drugs, and this Office will not turn a blind eye to those professionals who break that trust.”

As proven at trial, Purificacion Cristobal, a licensed nurse practitioner purporting to specialize in psychiatry, operated a clinic on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx. Between approximately June 2019 and June 2020, Cristobal prescribed tens of thousands of doses of oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose outside of the usual course of professional practice.  Oxycodone is a highly potent and addictive opioid that commands high prices in the black market because of demand by drug abusers.  Cristobal often prescribed oxycodone in combination with Xanax (alprazolam) and/or Adderall (amphetamine), controlled substances that are frequently abused and resold illicitly. 

Cristobal never performed physical examinations or medical tests, often asked patients to take their pick among different narcotics, and was repeatedly warned by others that her patients were reselling or abusing the drugs she prescribed.  She encouraged existing patients to recruit others, regularly accepted cash, and charged different cash “fees” depending on how many prescriptions she wrote for a particular patient.  Cristobal also coordinated with a nearby pharmacist, to whom she referred many of her patients, to shield her unlawful prescribing practices from law enforcement scrutiny.

Cristobal, 75, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, was convicted of one count of conspiring to distribute oxycodone and two counts of distributing oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose acting outside the usual course of professional practice.  Those counts carry, in the aggregate, a maximum potential sentence of 60 years in prison. 

The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad in the New York Division, which is comprised of agents and officers from the DEA, the New York City Police Department, the New York City Department of Investigation, Health & Hospitals Office of the Inspector General, the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the New York National Guard.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jun Xiang, Kyle A. Wirshba, and Derek Wikstrom are in charge of the prosecution.