STATEN ISLAND, NY (PIX11)—A young Staten Island mom married to an NYPD sergeant is accused of operating a prescription drug ring that was selling thousands of pills on the Jersey shore, the beach town that garnered international fame thanks to the hard-partying cast of MTV's 'Jersey Shore'.
Neighbors of 35-year-old Staten Island nurse, Angelique Sestito, expressed dismay and disgust after learning of the drug bust. "I just feel bad, because I know she has children, babies," said one neighbor on Crossfield Avenue, in the Annadale section of the borough. "It's horrible that she has kids, and she was doing something like that to other children."
Sestito was dressed in her blue hospital scrubs when she faced a federal judge in Brooklyn Thursday. She works at Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island, but the federal complaint doesn't say whether she stole any drugs from the hospital. The complaint says the ten-member ring sold large quantities of Oxycodone, also called Oxycontin, a highly-addictive prescription medicine. DEA special agent in charge, John Gilbride, pointed out, "Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in America today."
The problem has been called "epidemic" on Staten Island, and it's received national attention in the last week, with the execution-style murders of four people inside a Long Island pharmacy. David Laffer of Medford, a former member of the U.S. Army National Guard who became a prescription drug addict, has been charged with killing four people before stealing more than 11,000 Oxycodone pills from Haven Pharmacy. His wife, Melinda Brady--also a pill popper--has been charged as an accomplice in the robbery.
In the Staten Island case, two men--Steven Punturieri and Louis D'Arpa--are the accused ringleaders. The Staten Island Advance did a study not so long ago, showing an enormous number of pain killer prescriptions being filled in that borough--with more than 115,000 of them being written in 2009 alone. That's more, per capita, than any other borough in the city .an average of one prescription drug script for every 4 or 5 people living on Staten Island.
"Yes, the borough is very bad, probably one of the worst of the five," said Staten Island resident, Mike Neary. "When you eat one pill, after the first time, then you need two, three and four." Neary knew about the going prices for pills on the street. "Percocet is like $20 a pop; Xanax, like $5 a pop; and Oxy--it 's called Oxy80, like 80 mg--and it's $20 a pop for each pill."
Seven months ago, federal agents busted an 83-year-old doctor, Felix Lanting, on Staten Island, accusing him in a massive scheme to prescribe pills that were later sold on the street. One of his neighbors on Hunter Avenue, in the Grant City section, told PIX 11, "At least 20-25 cars were always parked around here. It looked like the people even had pill bottles in their hands. They were always on cell phones. Young. Ranging in age from 17, 18 all the way up to maybe late 40's. We felt so badly this was happening in our neighborhood, because we thought we had a good neighborhood. It goes to show you it's an epidemic on Staten Island. It's going on all over."
Back at Angelique Sestito's house on Crossfield Avenue--where an American flag craft hangs on the front door--there was no sign of any activity. But Pat Williams, who was babysitting her one year old granddaughter, Keira, had something to say about the case. "I think it's horrible. Innocent children are going to get addicted to this drug."