Manhattan U.S. Attorney And FBI Assistant Director-In-Charge Announce Charges Against Psychiatrist For Illegally Distributing Oxycodone
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) announced the arrest today of William S. Belfar, a licensed psychiatrist in New York, on charges that he distributed oxycodone, a prescription painkiller, for cash and without a medical purpose. BELFAR was presented today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, William Belfar, a licensed psychiatrist, contributed to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse and addiction by writing prescriptions in exchange for cash – conduct which he had described as illegal when discussing other doctors. This Office will not tolerate medical professionals who exploit their licenses to fuel the prescription drug problem.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said: “William Belfar, a licensed physician and mental health professional, allegedly exploited the addictive nature of oxycodone – the very thing he warned of on television – to make money. He violated the oath of his profession and broke the law in peddling oxycodone prescriptions. The Health Care Fraud Task Force was formed in part to protect the public from unscrupulous doctors who put profiteering ahead of professional responsibility.”
According to the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
BELFAR operated a medical office in Manhattan, New York, from which he sold prescriptions for oxycodone and other medications for cash. On three occasions from May 2011 to April 2013, he sold prescriptions of oxycodone pills and other medications to an FBI confidential informant and two undercover FBI officers. BELFAR sold the prescriptions for up to $1,000 per prescription. On one occasion when BELFAR sold an oxycodone prescription, he stated to the informant: “[I]t is a very easy way to make money, but it’s an easy way for me to go to jail too.” BELFAR prescribed the oxycodone to the confidential informant even though he said he believed the informant was a “dealer.”
In February and March 2013, around the same time that BELFAR was selling oxycodone prescriptions, he appeared on two television shows as an interview guest on the subject of oxycodone addiction. During those interviews, BELFAR discussed cases of celebrities becoming addicted to oxycodone, including one situation where the “doctor essentially became [a] drug dealer.” BELFAR also stated during one interview that “This is a big business. . . . On the street . . . each [oxycodone] pill is $30. . . . Patients will pay a lot of money just to get these pills. . . . The doctors prescribe it. Yes, some do it for money. Some do it because they just don’t know what they are doing. . . . [T]hey just shouldn’t be doing it.”
Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, is a powerful painkiller with a high potential for addiction and abuse. It is sold on the street as a substitute for heroin and other illegal drugs.
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BELFAR, 49, of Huntington, New York, is charged with three counts of distributing oxycodone. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI, the FBI’s Boston Field Office, the FBI Boston-Lakeville RA, the New York City Police Department, and the FBI’s New York Health Care Fraud Task Force. The FBI’s New York Health Care Fraud Task Force was formed in 2007 in an effort to combat health care fraud in the greater New York City area. The task force is composed of agents, officers and investigators of the FBI, NYPD, New York State Insurance Fraud Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Inspector General, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, NYS Attorney General’s Office, NYS-Office of Medicaid Inspector General, NYC Health and Hospitals Inspector General, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Rahul Mukhi and Ian McGinley are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.