opioid epidemic

A former Merrick doctor was sentenced Thursday to 23 years in federal prison for illegally prescribing addictive painkillers to patients, causing two fatal overdoses.

Michael Belfiore, 58, of Westbury, was convicted in 2018 at Central Islip federal court of illegally distributing oxycodone and the illegal distribution of oxycodone causing the deaths of two patients. U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco also ordered Belfiore to forfeit $7,270 in illegal fees that he took from the two dead patients and an undercover detective and to pay $17,000 in restitution for the deaths.

“During the midst of an opioid epidemic, the defendant chose to use his education
and medical training to do harm, and at the expense of two of his patients’ lives,” said Keith Kruskall, the acting special agent-in-charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York Division.

During his five-week-long trial, prosecutors told a jury that 42-year-old Edward Martin overdosed and died in his bed on March 5, 2013 after snorting the oxycodone obtained from Belfiore’s prescription a week prior. And on April 12, 2013, Belfiore gave an illegal prescription for 150 30 mg oxycodone pills to 32-year-old John Ubaghs who was found unresponsive the next day after overdosing on oxycodone prescribed by Belfiore, and was pronounced dead at the hospital, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors have said Belfiore, whose medical license has lapsed, issued six oxycodone prescriptions to an undercover Nassau County police officer despite there being no medical reason to do so, in exchange for thousands of dollars, between March 15, 2013 and August 12, 2013.

Belfiore landed on the DEA’s radar in the spring of 2013 after receiving complaints about his prescription writing practices, according to the criminal complaint. Specifically, several pharmacists and others were concerned that Belfiore was illegally issuing a large number of prescriptions to people who were abusing oxycodone pills, the criminal complaint states.

Prescription records from Jan. 2010 and March 2013 obtained by the DEA revealed that he wrote approximately 5,000 oxycodone prescriptions for more than 600,000 pills—an “extremely high” number of prescriptions and pills issued by a sole practitioner, authorities alleged in the court documents.

The undercover officer met with Belfiore under the false pretense that he was seeking treatment for back and shoulder pain. The officer said he previously obtained the pills from an ex-girlfriend and one of Belfiore’s patients, according to the complaint. Authorities said the officer was then issued a prescription for ninety 30-milligram oxycodone pills. He paid $425, according to the complaint.

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