A doctor who practiced in Merrick was charged Wednesday with illegally distributing the narcotic painkiller oxycodone, the culmination of a probe that began, in part, after authorities discovered he had written about 5,000 prescriptions for 600,000 of the pills over a three-year period, court records show.
Michael Belfiore, 51, of Westbury, was charged after prescribing oxycodone six times from March 15 to Aug. 12, 2013, "with no legitimate medical need" to an undercover Nassau County detective, a complaint said.
According to the complaint, the undercover detective approached Belfiore after allegations came from "several pharmacists, law enforcement officers and multiple confidential sources" that the osteopathic physician was "illegally issuing prescriptions to individuals who were abusing and/or diverting oxycodone pills."
Following the allegations, DEA agents obtained state records indicating that from January 2010 to March 2013, Belfiore had written the unusually high number of prescriptions for the painkiller, the complaint said -- a pattern that helped trigger the probe.
Belfiore was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Gary Brown at the federal courthouse in Central Islip and released on $500,000 bond. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He was not required to enter a plea.
His attorney, Marc Gann of Mineola, said his client is "a caring doctor who has compassion for his patients," adding that his client had surrendered his DEA license to prescribe narcotics.
Eastern District federal prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz declined to comment.
The undercover detective first met with Belfiore last March and falsely claimed that he had back and shoulder pain, the complaint said. The detective added that a former girlfriend had given him oxycodone and he "liked the way it felt," the complaint said. One of Belfiore's patients also gave him an oxy-codone pill, the detective told Belfiore, the complaint said.
Belfiore "examined" the detective for 30 seconds and gave him a prescription for 90 pills for $425 in cash, the complaint said.
A similar pattern was repeated on five later visits, in which the undercover detective provided no "documentation of his injury," the complaint said.
On four of the visits, technicians for Belfiore took swabs of the detective's saliva to check that he was taking the pills, but the tests were negative, a strong indicator that the detective was diverting or selling the pills, the complaint said.
Once, Belfiore is quoted in the complaint as urging the undercover detective to get an X-ray of his back so that "when the state calls and says, " 'Why are you giving meds?' I can say something."
Another time, Belfiore is quoted as saying, "If the DEA comes into the office and asks about [the undercover's] prescriptions, there will be a problem." Each visit to Belfiore was recorded on video and audio, the complaint said.
Belfiore was the eighth doctor arrested by federal agents in connection with illegally prescribing oxycodone on Long Island since the 2011 murders of four people by David Laffer as he robbed a Medford pharmacy. The crimes intensified an ongoing crackdown for the illegal distribution of the painkiller.