A doctor with an office in Merrick accused of causing the deaths of two patients by illegally prescribing them oxycodone staunchly defended his medical practice Friday.
After his arraignment in federal court in Central Islip, Dr. Michael Belfiore, 51, said in an interview that he has done nothing wrong.
“The federal government shouldn’t be playing doctor, just as I shouldn’t be playing lawyer,” he said.
The patients, both of whom died in 2013, have been identified as John Ubaghs, 33, of Baldwin, and Edward Martin, 43, of East Rockaway.
Belfiore’s not guilty plea covered all counts in an indictment accusing him of illegal distribution of the narcotic painkiller.
If convicted, Belfiore faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life imprisonment.
Belfiore said he was being pressured into “taking a plea for something I didn’t do.”
The Westbury resident remains free on $500,000 bond.
He was initially charged in 2016 with illegally distributing oxycodone to unnamed patients, but that indictment was recently thrown out on a technicality.
Since then, medical examiners have linked the deaths of Ubaghs and Martin to the oxycodone prescribed by Belfiore, Eastern District prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz said in court Friday.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco set Sept. 13 for a hearing on whether to bar certain government evidence from trial, including conversations Belfiore allegedly had with federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
Belfiore’s attorney, Thomas Liotti, said the DEA agents talked with his client without advising him of his Miranda rights against self-incrimination. Prosecutors have said Belfiore was not facing charges when those conversations occurred, so a Miranda warning wasn’t necessary.
Belfiore said any doctor is permitted to prescribe drugs such as oxycodone for pain without specific training, such as a residency in pain management.
He said he has taken courses that certify him to treat addiction by using drugs such as suboxone that block the effect of oxycodone and other narcotics.