Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 18 December 2009 00:00
On Saturday, Dec. 5, local residents participated in a Drug Free Awareness Walk to demonstrate their resoluteness to ending the drug problem in not only the Massapequa’s, but in all of Long Island.
Last Wednesday, the severity of the problem was brought home again, as Nassau County police announced the arrest of a Melville physician, charged with the criminal sale of prescriptions in Massapequa itself.
According to Nassau County police, the defendant, Saji Francis, 49, of Melville, a medical doctor, while at his office located at 4999 Merrick Rd., did knowingly and unlawfully sell prescriptions of Oxycodone (a schedule II controlled substance) to another on nine different dates, from Aug. 1 to Dec. 8 of this year.
The defendant, detectives added, received anywhere from $480 - $600 for the prescriptions.
The Narcotics/Vice Squad detectives arrested Francis at his office on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 12:45 p.m. He is being charged with nine counts of Criminal Sale Prescription (C Felony) and was arraigned on Wednesday, Dec. 9 in First District Court, Hempstead.
At a Dec. 9 press conference, Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey issued stinging criticism of the defendant.
“Dr. Saji Frances is the antithesis of the Hippocratic oath, to do no harm,” Commissioner Mulvey said. “His greed and total disregard for the ethics of the medical profession has exacerbated the opiate and heroin abuse in Massapequa.”
At the press conference, Mulvey said that detectives were tipped off to the defendant last June by a local parent whose son was battling a heroin conviction. The youth in question, Mulvey said, had gone to Francis for the past five years whenever “things got bad.”
Mulvey thanked the Massapequa community for their sense of awareness that helped to lead to the investigation and eventual arrest of Francis.
“He [Francis] damaged our community’s greatest asset, our young people,” Mulvey said. “Now he will pay for that by losing his freedom and perhaps a multimillion dollar home in a gated community.”
Mulvey said that the defendant had been sought out by local youth battling addictions for both heroin and pain medication.
Mulvey also said that tapes of the investigation revealed the name of Natalie Ciappi, the Massapequa youth who died of a drug overdose in the summer of 2008. The tapes also had references to the defendant. “Kids were looking him up,” Mulvey said, a process, he added, that had been ongoing for five “or more” years.
In all, Mulvey said Francis was purely “motivated by greed.” The defendant, he added, was selling prescription drugs without making an examination of the buyer. “It was merely a cash transaction,” Mulvey said of the entire process, which included prescribing medication for individuals as young as 18 years old.
After the arrest was made, it was revealed that no less than 40 such patients had paid cash money for prescription drugs, Mulvey said. Detectives, he added, are investigating if any pharmacies were receiving excessive prescriptions during the time period in which the transactions in question were being made.
Finally, detectives released a video showing a cash sale transaction between Francis and an undercover detective. They also released a transcript of their conversation, including cynical comments by the defendant.
Dr.: What do you get?
Det.: The oxy 30s.
(Dr. tells nurse to come in—-short conversation between Dr. and nurse).
Det. (Counts $500 out loud).
Dr.: Good arithmetic.
Dr.: Did I tell you…600 last time…did I tell you…that I (inaud).
Det.: You said for the other stuff, 7, 6 or whatever it was.
Dr.: Remember $600, alright, for the next time.
Dr.: Everything all good alright?
Det.: Yup, how you been alright?
Det.: Alright, 4 weeks.
Det.: Thank you.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice issued her own statement on the arrest.
“This doctor was selling drugs across the street from Massapequa High School,” she noted. “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. This arrest represents an important victory in our fight.”
Also at the press conference were Vicky Honohan and Janice Talento, founders of Drug Free Massapequa, which sponsored the successful Dec. 5 walk.
Ms. Honohan explained that the founding of their organization was due to concern over a “heroin epidemic” in Massapequa. She added that they were both pleased by the support given to Drug Free Massapequa by local politicians, including State Senator Charles Fuschillo, State Assemblyman Joseph Saladino, and Town of Oyster Bay Councilman Joseph Pinto.
“The response has been absolutely outstanding,” Ms. Honohan said. “Without [support from] political figures we would not be able to begin [the organization]. We don’t want our children dying of heroin overdose. We want them to go on to college.”
Ms. Talento added that numerous communities outside of Massapequa have enquired about Drug Free Massapequa. “We have many more events planned through the school district,” she said.