What to Know
- A Long Island doctor is facing murder charges after five patients allegedly died between 2016 and 2018 due to prescriptions he wrote
- George Blatti, 75, was arraigned Thursday on five counts of murder in the second degree and 11 counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree
- It was at his office -- a former Radio Shack -- that Blatti allegedly met customers through 2019, according to the original indictment
A Long Island doctor is facing murder charges after five patients allegedly died between 2016 and 2018 due to prescriptions he wrote.
George Blatti, 75, was arraigned Thursday on five counts of murder in the second degree and 11 counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree. Blatti was remanded and is due back in court on March 30.
If convicted of the top charge, the defendant faces a potential maximum of up to 25 years to life in prison. The indictment will be consolidated with a 2019 indictment based on the same conduct, superseding the most serious charges.
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Attorney information for Blatti was not immediately known.
Authorities believe this is the first time a doctor has been charged in New York with murder in the second degree under the theory of depraved indifference to human life.
The charges stem from an investigation into several opioid overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, in August 2018, according to District Attorney Madeline Singas, which revealed that a number of individuals had an inordinate number of prescriptions for opioids written by Blatti.
The alleged victims — three men and two women, all between the ages of 30-60 — were prescribed 45,000 pills over a four-year time frame, even though prosecutors said each showed clear signs of addiction. In one case, it was said that Blatti prescribed the victim nine times the daily maximum recommended dosage of opioids. Family members of two of the victims had no comment after Thursday's not guilty plea.
Blatti, a general practitioner originally licensed to practice medicine in 1976, had no specialized training or accreditation in pain management, according to prosecutors. During a period of time, Blatti maintained a makeshift office in a Franklin Square storefront that was formerly a Radio Shack, with the sign of the now-defunct electronics chain and merchandise racks on the walls.
It was at this office that Blatti allegedly met customers though 2019, according to the original indictment. After he lost access to that space, he allegedly saw patients in his car, prescribing medications with no examination from the parking lots of the Rockville Centre hotel -- where he lived -- and a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts, prosecutors say.
According to the indictment, the patients, who were addicted to opioids, went to Blatti with their controlled medications requests and he then allegedly prescribed them with no medical history review or exam. He billed insurance and accepted cash.
Additionally, prosecutors say that in some cases, he allegedly prescribed opioid painkillers at patients’ request to other individuals he had never met or spoken to.
Blatti allegedly used paper prescriptions pursuant to a waiver issued by the New York State Health Commissioner, allowing him to avoid using the state’s secure electronic prescription system.This system is generally required, and provides for greater oversight.
It was the second time in three years Blatti has found himself in handcuffs. He was arrested on April 18, 2019, by members of the NCPD Asset Forfeiture and Intelligence Unit, and the DEA Long Island District Office Tactical Diversion Squad and subsequently arraigned on a 54-count indictment in October 2019. Those charges include 22 counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance, six counts of forgery in the second degree, two counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree, 22 counts of criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions in the fourth degree and two counts of reckless endangerment in the second degree.
“This doctor’s prescription pad was as lethal as any murder weapon,” District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “We allege that Dr. Blatti showed depraved indifference to human life, total disregarded for the law, his ethical obligations, and the pleas of his patients and their family members when he prescribed massive quantities of dangerous drugs to victims in the throes of addiction, ultimately killing five patients who entrusted him with their care."
Singas went on to say: "As we continue to battle the epidemic of opioid abuse that has ravaged our communities, this prosecution sends a strong message to any doctor seeking to profit from vulnerable patients’ addiction: we will hold you accountable to the greatest extent the law allows.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and DEA Special agent Ray Donovan shared similar sentiments.
“These indictments should send a clear message to all doctors that they will be directly held accountable for their actions as they profit from individuals that are suffering from addiction," Ryder said.
Meanwhile, Donovan called Blatti's alleged actions "unconscionable."
“This is a tragic story of lives lost at the hands of someone entrusted to save lives," he said.