MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (WPIX)—A Long Island doctor was arrested and charged Wednesday, after authorities said he knowingly and unlawfully sold prescriptions for the powerful painkiller Oxycodone to customers. Police say his clientele included several teenagers.
Detectives with the Nassau County Police Department believe Dr. Saji Francis, 49, of Melville had been selling the prescriptions for nearly 5 years from his Merrick Road office, located across the street from Massapequa High School.
Francis allegedly received anywhere from $480 to $600 for the prescriptions, police said.
Authorities arrested the doctor, who specializes as an internist at his office Tuesday afternoon.
Francis was arraigned in First District Court in Hempstead Wednesday on nine counts of criminal sale of a prescription. A judge ordered him held in lieu of $180,000 bond or $90,000 cash. The doctor faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted. Additional charges are pending.
"For a doctor to be held to a higher standard of care for him to be adding to this drug issue, is just inescapable." said outraged mom Christine Sohmer, whose son walks past the doctor's office everyday on his way to school.
Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey scolded Francis, describing the physician as the antithesis of the Hippocratic oath.
"His greed and total disregard for the ethics of the medical profession has exacerbated the opiate and heroin abuse in Massapequa," Mulvey said.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Mulvey revealed to reporters that by his own omission, Francis admitted to selling Oxycodone prescriptions to at least 40 teenagers in the past six months.
Police say they became aware of the illegal operation when they started conducting wire taps after the June 2008 death of Natalie Ciappa, a high school senior who lived in Massapequa and died of a heroin overdose.
"When heroin users couldn't get heroin in Massapequa because the heat was too hot and the supply was dry," Mulvey explained. "Detectives heard this reference to 'Dr. Frank' and ... it was obvious kids were channeling him to get them through hard times."
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the arrest represents an important victory in the area's fight against drugs.
"Dangerous painkillers like these are often the gateway to more lethal opiates like heroin, and this community right now is ground zero in our battle against the Island's heroin epidemic."