By Mira Wassef
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Six Staten Islanders are among eight people charged as authorities announced indictments in multiple schemes, including the distribution of oxycodone pills, illegal gambling and tax and public benefits fraud.
Borough residents Robert Bloome, 52, Joseph Byrne, 54, Ralph Castore, 70, John Desantis, 40, Steven Feuerstein, 56, and Melissa Lomagno, 38, were named in the indictments, said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
Charges filed in the alleged schemes include criminal sale of a controlled substance, conspiracy, promoting gambling, welfare fraud, grand larceny and criminal tax fraud.
“As alleged in the indictments, these defendants exploited vicious cycles of addiction – specifically, online gambling and opioid narcotics – to enrich themselves,” Vance said. “But, it didn’t stop there – several of these defendants are also accused of orchestrating elaborate schemes to funnel the proceeds of their illegal activities through shell companies and cash transactions to hide their income and defraud taxpayers.”
In the oxycodone scheme, Byrne, Bloome and Desantis profited from the sale of the pills from October 2014 to July 2015, authorities allege. The defendants filled prescriptions for 90 to 180 pills a month and would sell them to each other and an undercover detective, officials said.
Between May 2014 and June 2015, Byrne and Feuerstein profited from illegal gambling sites in Costa Rica, the district attorney said. Byrne was responsible for maintaining and recruiting bettors and distributing gambling proceeds, while Feuerstein had authority to open, close, and adjust bettors’ accounts, according to prosecutors. The two accepted more than $125,000 in bets from the undercover detective alone, Vance said.
When Byrne owed the detective money for winning bets, he allegedly paid the detective with oxycodone pills. Byrne paid Bloome $18 per pill but charged the undercover $26 per pill, officials said.
Several of the defendants also allegedly failed to report income tax and hid their assets by transferring money to shell companies. For example, Desantis received about $67,000 from the New York City Housing Authority on behalf of a tenant, which he deposited into bank accounts he and Bloome owned, authorities said.
Bloome and Lomagno allegedly claimed they had little income and received thousands in fraudulent Medicaid benefits. Bloome received approximately $15,600 and Lomagno received about $12,200, which the defendants did not report on their personal tax returns, Vance said.
“From their illicit prescription pill operation to complex gambling and public fraud schemes, the alleged defendants named in this indictment demonstrated a prolonged disregard for our laws,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill.
The other two defendants charged in the indictment are Michael Cohen of Manhattan and Anthony Russo of Asbury Park, N.J.