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Top doctor at SUNY Downstate stole $1.4M, spent it on doggy day care, travel: Brooklyn DA

Michael Lucchesi
Michael Lucchesi

The former head of emergency medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center embezzled more than $1.44 million and spent it on travel, personal trainers and a luxe doggy day-care center,

66, tapped the hospital and med school’s business credit card to augment his six-figure salary, using taxpayer dollars to fund his cushy lifestyle, according to Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez.

His theft spanned more than six years, from Dec. 1, 2016, to Jan. 31, 2023, until an audit by the uncovered the crime, prosecutors said.

He used $176,000 of his ill-gotten gains to pamper five pooches that belonged to him and his girlfriend, including three Labrador retrievers and a Rottweiler, law enforcement sources said.

About $120,000 of that cash went to the Greenleaf Pet Resort & Hotel in Millstone Township, N.J., prosecutors allege.

A view of Suny Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn on Sunday March 29, 2020.
Theodore Parisienne for ˵Ӱ
SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. (Theodore Parisienne for ˵Ӱ)

Lucchesi also served at times as the acting head of Downstate Hospital and the medical school and the chief medical officer, according to prosecutors. State payroll data shows he made more than $260,000 in base salary in 2023, and from 2016 to 2019 his overall pay topped more than $500,000.

“As a high-ranking doctor at this vital health care institution this defendant was entrusted with access to significant funds, which he allegedly exploited, stealing more than $1 million dollars to pay for a lavish lifestyle,” Gonzalez said Tuesday. “The scope of the alleged thefts is shocking, and my office is committed to holding accountable anyone who rips off the taxpayers.”

Lucchesi, of Staten Island, was arraigned on a nine-count indictment Tuesday and charged with grand larceny, falsifying business records and tax fraud. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Donald Leo ordered him released without bail.

Lucchesi also used the hospital credit card to pay $348,000 in personal travel expenses, $109,000 for membership and personal training at New York Sports Club, $52,000 in catering expenses, $46,000 in tuition payments for his children, $115,000 in cash advances, and several online orders for flowers, liquor, electronics and other purchases, prosecutors said.

“New Yorkers deserve doctors who uphold their oath with the utmost integrity. The spending spree on the State’s dime alleged here is an insult to hardworking taxpayers and the medical profession,” state Inspector General Lucy Lang said Tuesday.

Lucchesi referred all questions to his lawyer when contacted Tuesday.

“Dr. Lucchesi, he has served that Brooklyn community for over 30 years, and he has served that community with distinction and a real passionate commitment to his patients,” said his lawyer, Earl Ward. “This is a doctor who as an emergency room doctor has saved numerous lives. So these charges don’t really reflect who he is and what he has accomplished.”

Ward said he expects the facts of the case to be more complicated than the initial allegations in the indictment.

“A lot of this money, there’s ambiguity in regard to what doctors can do with that money. In my mind, it’s not clear-cut,” Ward said. “It’s not like somebody going into a bank account and stealing money. There’s ambiguity in how that money could have been spent. There’s more to this case than the cold, bare facts of the indictment.”

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