A Bay Shore man who supported his drug habit by stealing thousands of oxycodone pills from a hospital where he worked was sentenced to probation by a federal judge Friday who said that he had apparently turned his life around.
Michael Hernandez, 27, resigned in 2010 from his job as a pharmacy technician at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore after it was discovered that he had stolen 5,600 oxycodone pills, according to court papers. Hernandez then began to use heroin and became addicted to that drug after he could no longer obtain oxycodone, the papers said.
While working in the hospital, Hernandez wrote oxycodone prescriptions for patients not using the painkiller and pocketed the drug, officials said.
Hernandez was arrested in 2011 on heroin charges by Suffolk County police and shortly afterward by federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents on a charge of fraudulently obtaining the oxycodone, the papers said.
The Suffolk charges were dropped after Hernandez had been in jail for two months, but entered a rehab program, and successfully kicked his drug habits.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt in Central Islip sentenced Hernandez to 3 years probation and 300 hours of community service, after noting that Hernandez "had done very well in treatment" and called his case "a success story."
Spatt noted that Hernandez, who works in a warehouse, had never failed a drug test since his arrests, was a hardworking, taxpaying citizen, and was about to be married. The judge also said that he was taking into consideration that Hernandez apparently had never sold drugs, but only used them himself.
"I hope that I will not see you [again]," Spatt said. "Continue to do what you are doing and live a good life." A number of Hernandez' relatives and friends were in the courtroom to support him.
The judge could have sentenced Hernandez to up to 6 months in prison.
In asking that her client receive a sentence of probation, federal public defender Tracey Gaffey said "I wish all my clients" had been as successful in rehabilitation. "He never relapsed," Gaffey said.
Before he was sentenced, Hernandez said, "I'd like to apologize to my family . . . and the court."
Eastern District prosecutor Christopher Ott declined to comment after the sentencing.