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Bender: I had ‘no knowledge’ of prescription drug ring

Former Southampton Town Councilman Brade Bender with his Brian DeSessa outside federal court in Central Islip Tuesday.

In his first one-on-one interview with the media since his arrest and guilty plea in federal court Tuesday, former Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender told the News-Review he became addicted to pain pills he was overprescribed following back surgery.

Mr. Bender said he eventually started sharing his prescription with another person, who then sold the pills to others.

“Unfortunately, what I thought was for personal use [by that person] was not being used for personal use,” Mr. Bender said.

A Northampton resident who was elected to the Town Board in 2013, Mr. Bender said he had “no knowledge” of a larger conspiracy federal authorities say involves Riverhead physician assistant Michael Troyan, his former primary care provider. Federal prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Troyan and up to 20 other co-conspirators were responsible for the sale of over 60,000 pills in a three-year span, a scheme which netted $1.8 million in street sales.

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Mr. Bender, who resigned from elected office Tuesday, said he has had “a lifetime of issues with addiction at different times in my life,” but was never formally treated. He is now in a treatment program as part of the terms of his release.

Between July 2012 and June 2015, Mr. Bender traded his pills for cash and steroids, according to court filings and statements made in court when he entered his guilty plea in Central Islip. Authorities say he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, though Mr. Bender said he hopes to avoid jail time and is requesting a significantly smaller fine.

Mr. Bender, who grew up in the Midwest, said he was “on my own” by 11th grade. His parents divorced and he eventually moved to Long Island with his grandparents.

“These are the things you don’t tell people,” he said. “When you run for office, you paint your happy family and you paint a picture.”

He said he did not want to use his difficult childhood as any kind of excuse though.

“Some of these things go way back and I’m not trying to make excuses,” he said. “I’m taking responsibility. But I’ve never gotten help and I think I probably should have gotten it long before. I’d maybe be in a different place right now.”

The former councilman, who works as a contractor, said he had back issues and eventually had surgery. He said he was “definitely” overprescribed painkillers by Mr. Troyan, a Riverhead resident who operates East End Urgent Care. Mr. Bender said he eventually became dependent upon them.

“My drug dealer was my doctor,” he said. “I don’t like it any more than anybody else does, but unfortunately I got caught up in that.

“I would hope that people stand in my recovery more so than people stand in judgment.”

Despite resigning from his post, Mr. Bender said he will be in Town Hall next month to support a plan to revitalize Riverside that has been in the works for years.

“I’ve worked on that project for six years. I’m not going to let people take that away from me,” he said. “Nothing has changed about the passion I have for the community. That’s still the kind of guy I want to be.

“Did I have a major hiccup? Yeah, I did, but I took responsibility for that. I refuse to put my head in the sand. I know I’m a better man than that.”

The Southampton Town Board announced Wednesday that it has scheduled a meeting for Monday to discuss setting a special election to replace Mr. Bender.

Caption: Former Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender (right) with his attorney Brian DeSessa outside federal court in Central Islip Tuesday. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

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