Long Island Doctor Convicted of Causing the Overdose Deaths of Two Patients and Illegally Distributing Oxycodone
A federal jury in Central Islip today, following five weeks of trial, convicted Dr. Michael Belfiore of two counts of illegal distribution of oxycodone causing the deaths of two patients and 26 counts of illegal distribution of oxycodone. After the verdict, Dr. Belfiore was remanded to custody pending sentencing by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco. The defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, a $10 million fine and forfeiture in an amount to be determined by the Court.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, James J. Hunt, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Division, and Patrick J. Ryder, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), announced the verdict.
“Dr. Belfiore was acting not as a healer, but as a drug dealer with a prescription pad,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “The defendant lined his pockets with cash from patients in exchange for illegally prescribing oxycodone, a particularly dangerous and addictive drug, with lethal results. The Department of Justice recognizes the importance of holding corrupt medical professionals like Dr. Belfiore accountable for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic.” The case was investigated by the DEA’s Long Island Tactical Diversion Squad comprising agents and officers of the DEA, Nassau County Police Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, Suffolk County Police Department, Port Washington Police Department and Internal Revenue Service.
“From the time he was arrested, to today’s conviction, it was abundantly clear that Dr. Belfiore’s actions were not those of a medical doctor, but those of a drug dealer,” stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Hunt. “Lives were lost at the hands of Dr. Belfiore whose practice enabled addiction and overdose – both of which contribute to the current opioid crisis our nation is facing. I commend the diligent work of the DEA Tactical Diversion Squad in Long Island and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, on this investigation and trial.”
“The conviction of defendant Dr. Michael Belfiore is a clear example of our zero tolerance approach toward dealing with the illegal prescribing of Oxycodone,” stated NCPD Commissioner Ryder. “We have seen all too often how these prescriptions have had serious and fatal effects on our communities and residents. I would like to congratulate all of the investigative agencies for their hard work and dedication during this investigation.”
The evidence at trial established that Dr. Belfiore, a doctor of osteopathic medicine who primarily operated out of an office in Merrick, illegally distributed oxycodone outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. Oxycodone is a powerful and highly addictive drug that is increasingly abused because of its potency when crushed into a powder and ingested. It is a scheduled controlled substance that may be dispensed by medical professionals only to patients suffering from significant pain that is documented through medical exams, diagnostic testing—such as x-rays and MRIs—and other objective proof. Although oxycodone is commonly prescribed in five milligram tablets, the trial evidence showed that Dr. Belfiore wrote thousands of 30 milligram prescriptions for oxycodone in quantities of up to 180 pills per month. Specifically, as proved at the trial:
On February 28, 2013, Dr. Belfiore gave an illegal prescription for 120 30 mg oxycodone pills to 42-year-old Edward Martin. On March 5, Mr. Martin overdosed and died in his bed after snorting the oxycodone obtained from Dr. Belfiore’s prescription.
On or about April 12, 2013, Dr. Belfiore gave an illegal prescription for 150 30 mg oxycodone to 32-year-old John Ubaghs, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who served in the infantry during the war in Iraq. On April 13, 2013, Mr. Ubaghs was found unresponsive after overdosing on oxycodone prescribed by Dr. Belfiore, and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Between March 2013 and August 2013, Dr. Belfiore intentionally dispensed six prescriptions of oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose to an undercover detective with the NCPD’s Narcotics Vice Squad. Undercover surveillance videos demonstrated that Dr. Belfiore created fake medical charts to justify those prescriptions and that during office meetings with the detective, Dr. Belfiore’s “treatment” consisted of a discussion of the doctor’s $175,000 Porsche, a recent trip to San Diego and his interest in helicopters, yachts and cigarette boats.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Charles N. Rose and Bradley T. King are in charge of the prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Madeline O’Connor is in charge of the forfeiture.
Residence: Westbury, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-242 (JFB)