Doctor gets 6 months for peddling prescription drug

Teri Kroll, whose son Tim died of an Teri Kroll, whose son Tim died of an overdose after getting pills from Dr. Saji Francis, is consoled by a friend after Francis leaves the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola. (July 15, 2010) Photo Credit: William Perlman

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A Massapequa doctor who pleaded guilty Thursday in Nassau County Court to charges he illegally sold prescriptions for oxycodone will face a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail - a prospect that shocked many of the parents who packed the Mineola courtroom.

Saji Francis, 50, of Melville, who was known locally as "Dr. Frank" and whose office was across the street from Massapequa High School, had faced a maximum sentence of 5 years in an upstate prison.

He did not speak except to answer questions from Justice Steven Jaeger and the prosecutor. The judge announced Francis' prospective jail term at the end of the proceeding.

Prosecutor Theresa Corrigan, who had asked for a 2-year prison sentence, said officials would not comment until Francis' sentencing, scheduled Sept. 20.

Francis surrendered his medical license, agreed to give up his practice and forfeited the house on Merrick Road in Massapequa that served as his office.

Outside the courtroom afterward, Teri and Frank Kroll of Copiague, whose son prosecutors say had told police about Francis, were in tears.

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Teri Kroll called on anyone who had bought illegal prescriptions from Francis to come forward to police. Her son Timothy, 23, died last year of a heart attack after four years of drug addiction, Teri Kroll said.

"I know there's more. My son is dead, but if you are still out there doing drugs, get help and come forward," she said as she sobbed.

The Krolls were embraced by family and friends, many of them part of the Drug Free Massapequa organization.

As Francis silently passed the crowd on his way out, some people shouted, "You're a monster."

Francis and his attorney, Dennis Lemke of Mineola, did not take questions from reporters seeking comment.

Janice Talento, president of Drug Free Massapequa, said, "It was definitely not justice. . . . We need to get other victims, the other kids, to speak about it."

Francis, a native of India, could be deported. According to court testimony, he is in the country illegally. The Nassau district attorney's office has notified the federal Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of Francis' status, an official said.

Francis was arrested Dec. 9, 2009, after an investigation by Nassau police. After his arrest, he asserted he had a drug habit and applied to participate in a statewide program that allows nonviolent defendants who can show their drug addiction was the reason for their crime to serve any sentence in a drug-treatment center.

At a February court hearing, prosecutors alleged that Francis made up his drug addiction to try to avoid incarceration. Jaeger concurred with prosecutors.

Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said, "You have addicted kids serving longer sentences."

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