A Rockville Centre physician accused of selling prescriptions for oxycodone and other powerful opioids from his car and a makeshift office in a shuttered Radio Shack was charged in a 54-count indictment unsealed Wednesday in Nassau County criminal court.
George Blatti, 74, wrote illegal prescriptions for more than 1.8 million units of opioids from 2014 to 2019, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said Wednesday during a news conference in Mineola. Some of those prescriptions have been linked to fatal overdoses, she said.
“Every physician on Long Island is aware we are in the midst of a deadly opioid epidemic and prescribing mass quantities of highly addictive painkillers with no examination, no testing and sometimes without people being present is a crime,” Singas said. “It is the conduct of a drug dealer in a lab coat, or in this case, a drug dealer in an empty Radio Shack.”
Opioids, particularly those containing fentanyl, have killed 600 people on Long Island since 2017. While the number of opioid overdoses is now declining, 147 people in Nassau died as the result of them in 2018; in Suffolk, 235 were projected this year through Sept. 30, those counties' officials have said.
Blatti, who is also accused of selling prescriptions for Adderall, Xanax and other drugs, pleaded not guilty Wednesday at his arraignment in Nassau County Court. Blatti’s attorney Jeffrey Groder of Mineola declined to comment, saying he has not had time to review evidence in the case.
The doctor had been arrested in April following an investigation by Nassau Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Long Island District Tactical Diversion Squad into a spike in opioid overdoses in South Shore communities. Investigators discovered that Blatti -- who has no experience or training in pain management -- had written a suspiciously high number of prescriptions for opioids, Singas said.
The doctor sold prescriptions from his car in several locations, including in the parking lot of a Rockville Centre Best Western hotel and a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts, prosecutors said. He also used a defunct Radio Shack -- which still had its sign above the door and retail shelves lining the wall -- as his office.
“This did not appear to be a traditional medical office and it raised alarms that some individuals were filling prescriptions written by Dr. Blatti for high volumes of opioid painkillers with shocking frequency,” Singas said.
Blatti, a Minnesota native who has been licensed to practice medicine in New York since 1975, charged $200 in cash for the prescriptions, the district attorney said.
Authorities said Blatti wrote his prescriptions on paper, rather than electronically, in an attempt to avoid oversight. He was charged in April with one count of criminal sale of a controlled substance by a practitioner and immediately surrendered his DEA registration to prescribe drugs, Singas said.
Blatti voluntarily surrendered his medical license in June while investigators looked into his alleged professional misconduct, according to state Department of Health records.
“The New York State Department of Health takes the health and safety of patients very seriously, and takes appropriate and swift action in all instances of potential misconduct. As noted on our website, Dr. Blatti agreed to be precluded from the practice of medicine in New York State pending final resolution of the Office of Professional Medical Conduct’s investigation into alleged misconduct,” the DOH said in a statement to Newsday.
Longtime patients who attended Wednesday’s arraignment to support Blatti said he is a caring and competent doctor who is being unfairly charged by Nassau County authorities.
“He knows his stuff,” said Claire Reinhardt of Malverne, who said she and her husband Bob have been patients of Blatti for 30 years. “You tell him what is wrong and he tells you what you need.”
Blatti could spend up to 59 1/2 years in prison if convicted on the top counts, according to prosecutors, who asked Judge Francis Ricigliano to order Blatti held on $500,000 bail. The judge said Blatti, who claimed he was destitute, could remain free on the $50,000 bond he posted after his arrest in April. Ricigliano ordered Blatti to return to court Nov. 26.