-FBI takes him off Guyana-bound flight
Former Minister of Health under the Desmond Hoyte led-People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)
administration, Dr. Noel Blackman, has been arrested and charged in what US authorities have described as a ‘drug-dealing’ scheme. Dr. Blackman reportedly wrote scores of prescriptions for the narcotic-based painkiller – oxycodone.
Reports are that Federal authorities on Sunday took the 68-year-old doctor into custody after they ordered a Guyana-bound jet, taxiing for takeoff, to return to an airport terminal.
The Herald Courier reported that federal agents were tipped off that the Guyana native planned to leave the country permanently.
Dr. Blackman was returning to Guyana to Chair the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC)’s Board of Directors. He was officially designated to perform the related duties for the period of one year, from December 1, 2015 to November 30, 2016.
Dr. Blackman is also co-owner of the Hoyte Blackman Television (HBTV- Channel Nine) station.
According to a Long Island Newsday article (www.newsday.com), Federal authorities arrested Dr. Blackman late Sunday at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was suspected of illegally prescribing vast amounts of the painkiller drug in what has been described as a “drug-dealing enterprise spanning three States.”
He was arraigned Monday in Central Islip on a charge of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
There are reports that he prescribed oxycodone to some patients he hadn’t seen, which is especially troubling, since the drug could cause serious or life-threatening breathing problems during the first 72 hours of treatment and anytime the dose is increased.
Records show Dr. Blackman wrote 114 prescriptions in 2014 for about 3,800 oxycodone pills and nearly 2,500 prescriptions for about 365,000 pills last year.
Officials say US$30,000 was also stashed in the doctor’s luggage.
According to Newsday, US Magistrate Anne Shields ordered Dr. Blackman held as a flight risk, pending future hearings. He was not required to enter a plea, officials said.
The extradition treaty between the United States and Guyana is in a state of flux and being renegotiated, officials said.
Dr. Blackman’s Attorney, Alan Nelson, declined to comment on the case, as did Eastern District Assistant United States Attorney Bradley King.
The doctor’s secretary, Eva Torres, 31, of the Bronx, was also arrested on the same narcotics conspiracy charges and appeared in court for her arraignment Monday too. She also was not required to enter a plea, but was released on $50,000 bond.
Torres’ attorney, Tracy Gaffey, declined to comment.
Until his arrest, Dr. Blackman had practiced surgery and pain management from offices in Franklin Square, Elmhurst and Brooklyn, and most recently lived in Far Rockaway, but was a longtime resident of Valley Stream.
Newsday reports that Blackman’s arrest is the latest in a string of cases involving Long Island doctors charged with illegally doling out highly addictive prescription painkillers.
In Dr. Blackman’s case, Torres was stopped and searched at Kennedy Airport in December returning from visiting Dr. Blackman in Guyana with more than 40 oxycodone prescriptions signed by Dr. Blackman for patients, according to court papers.
Agents checking the names of those for whom Dr. Blackman wrote prescriptions found that some lived in the Bronx and New Jersey, and as far away as Florida.
When Torres was arrested at her Bronx home Sunday, she told agents an unnamed person, identified only as John Doe One, would give her a list of names, and Dr. Blackman would write oxycodone prescriptions without examining the recipients, the court papers said.
Torres said Dr. Blackman was paid $300 for each of those prescriptions, the papers said.
After he was arrested at the airport, Dr. Blackman told agents that “it was possible that some of his patients were addicted to oxycodone, and that he charged approximately $300 to see patients at his ‘pain management’ practice, and that he typically saw approximately 100 patients per day, which he estimated was about one patient every six minutes,” according to the papers.
The papers do not say that Dr. Blackman admitted to any wrongdoing.
Guyana’s Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, in an invited comment to this publication yesterday, given the recent development, said Dr. Blackman will have to be replaced as Chairman. This, he added, is in the interest of upholding proper professional behaviour.
The Minister, however, noted that “we haven’t arrived at a decision who will replace him as yet but I can assure you we have quite a lot of competent persons around who can fill that position at the snap of a finger, and are willing to do so.”
Minister Norton in commenting on the Blackman situation disclosed that it is one of particular concern to him.
“I am a medical practitioner, regardless, and Dr. Noel Blackman was the Minister of Health when I came to work in this country in 1988, and I know he is a qualified surgeon working in the US.
“When one hears of these allegations you can only hope that the person, in spite of being charged, is innocent until proven guilty, and as a result I wouldn’t be rushing to make any statements of condemnation or anything like that,” Dr. Norton said as he hurried off to participate in the ongoing 2016 National Budget debate yesterday.
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