Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 02 July 2010 00:00
There has been another adjournment in the case of Sanji Francis, the Merrick-based physician accused of selling prescription drugs to undercover agents.
The defendant was in court again last Thursday, June 24. On that date, Judge Stephen Jaeger adjourned the case until Thursday, July 15. The point is for the defendant to finally enter a plea. The hearing will begin on July 15 at 2 p.m. It will take place at the New York State Supreme Court building on 252 Old Country Rd. in the west wing of the second floor. As The Massapequan Observer went to press, it was learned via an email from Drug Free Massapequa that Francis’s house has been surrendered to Nassau County.
This is the second time that the case has been adjourned to a later date. On Feb. 25, a Nassau County Court Judge dismissed a motion to grant Judicial Diversion to Francis. The defendant is being charged with nine counts of Criminal Sale Prescription (C Felony).
Theresa Corrigan, a district attorney who is prosecuting the case for the county, told The Massapequan Observer that she is still seeking “update prison time” for the defendant.
Whatever happens in July, the Feb. 25 dismissal was considered a victory for Drug Free Massapequa (DFM), the local advocacy group, which has taken a strong position on the case. At the Feb. 25 hearing, Massapequa residents braved miserable conditions to travel to Mineola on that date and attend the Judicial Diversion hearing. Before the hearing, DFM spearheaded a petition drive, supporting the position of Ms. Corrigan, in her attempt to deny the defendant Judicial Diversion. By the time of the hearing, over 2,000 signatures had been attached to the petition. On Feb. 25, the defendant unsuccessfully sought the diversion on the grounds that he was suffering from an addiction himself.
The arrest took place in December 2009, an event that highlighted a serious drug problem not only on Long Island, but especially in Massapequa. After the arrest was made, county officials held a press conference to explain the severity of the operation. According to Nassau County police, Francis, 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 to $600 for the prescriptions.
At a Dec. 9 press conference, Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey issued stinging criticism of the defendant.
“Dr. Sanji 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.”
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 Ciappa, 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.
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.”