Three New York doctors were charged on Thursday with giving large amounts of Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs to mob members in return for construction and auto repair work done by mafia-controlled businesses.

Arlen Fleisher, Stephen Klass and George Shapiro, all doctors in Westchester County, a suburban area north of New York City, were accused of trading prescription drugs and drug samples with members and associates of the Gambino crime family. The one-count complaint was filed in Manhattan federal court.

Lawyers for all three defendants said their clients denied wrongdoing.

If convicted, the men could face a maximum 10-year prison term. They were arrested at their homes on Thursday morning and released after each posted a $50,000 bond.

In addition to Viagra, the doctors are accused of giving out Cialis, Levitra and other prescription drugs. According to court papers, Gambino members used the drugs and also gave them to others. In one instance, a high-ranking member of the Gambino crime family asked Klass to get him the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor for his barber, court papers said.

Federal prosecutors said no value has been publicly stated for the value of the pharmaceuticals that were traded.

Richard Herman, a lawyer for Shapiro, told reporters his client denies the charges. Herman also said Shapiro has a "pristine" record as a cardiologist and no criminal record.

Shapiro had been treating Gregory DePalma, who prosecutors say is a powerful "captain" in the Gambino family, for a heart condition, Herman said.

DePalma was indicted for racketeering in March along with the acting Gambino boss and other members and associates of the organized crime family. The charges against the doctors grew out of the investigation into Gambino family activities.

The complaint said that by the end of the FBI's probe, "DePalma was running a virtual pharmacy for his associates as a result of the large quantity of prescription drugs and drug samples" that he received from the three doctors.

"He (Shapiro) never had those drugs in the first place, so he couldn't have given them out," Herman said.

Robert Wolf, one of the lawyers representing Fleisher, said it is an accepted practice among doctors to give patients samples.

"This is a message to the medical profession. Don't treat Italians," he told reporters. "This is rampant and accepted in the medical profession, unless your patient is Italian."


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