Former Long Island Doctor Sentenced to 23 Years in Prison for Causing the Overdose Deaths of Two patients and Illegally Distributing Oxycodone
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. - Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Michael Belfiore, a former medical doctor, was sentenced by United States Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco to 23 years in prison for the illegal distribution of oxycodone causing the deaths of two patients and the illegal distribution of oxycodone to those patients and to an undercover detective. In addition, Belfiore was ordered to forfeit $7,270 in illegal fees that he took from the two deceased patients and the undercover detective and to pay $17,000 in restitution based upon costs associated with the overdose deaths that he caused. Belfiore was convicted of the charges by a federal jury in May 2018 following a five-week trial. Belfiore’s medical license has lapsed and he is no longer practicing medicine.
Keith Kruskall, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division (DEA), Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Patrick J. Ryder, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD), announced the sentence.
“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,” stated DEA Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Kruskall. “DEA and its law enforcement partners will continue to seek justice for the victims who have been betrayed and have suffered greatly at that hands of those who were trusted with their health and wellbeing.”
“In violation of his oath to do no harm, Belfiore intentionally distributed highly addictive and potentially lethal opioids in dosages and quantities that resulted in the overdose deaths of two of his patients,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Today’s sentence sends a strong message that this Office and its law enforcement partners will fight the opioid epidemic and seek serious punishment for medical professionals like Belfiore who betray their profession and use their prescription pads to further addiction, rather than as a tool to heal. I want to extend my sincere thanks to DEA’s Long Island Tactical Diversion Squad, who tenaciously investigated this case.”
Belfiore, a former doctor of osteopathic medicine who primarily operated out of an office in Merrick, New York, 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 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 Belfiore wrote thousands of 30 milligram prescriptions for oxycodone in quantities of up to 180 pills per month.
At trial, the evidence established that on February 28, 2013, 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 Belfiore’s prescription. On April 12, 2013, Belfiore gave an illegal prescription for 150 30 mg oxycodone pills to 32-year-old John Ubaghs. On April 13, 2013, Mr. Ubaghs was found unresponsive after overdosing on oxycodone prescribed by Belfiore, and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Between March 2013 and August 2013, Belfiore intentionally dispensed six prescriptions of oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose to an undercover detective with the NCPD’s Narcotics Vice Squad. Belfiore created fake medical charts to justify those prescriptions and during office meetings with the undercover detective, Belfiore’s “treatment” consisted of a discussion of the defendant’s trip to San Diego and his interest in helicopters, yachts and cigarette boats.
The case was investigated by the DEA’s Long Island Tactical Diversion Squad comprising agents and officers of the DEA, NCPD, Suffolk County Police Department, Port Washington Police Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.
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.
MICHAEL BELFIORE Age: 58 Westbury, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-242 (JFB)