Former Health Minister, Dr. Noel Blackman, who was set to be sentenced next Friday, March 24, for running an illegal prescription drugs racket in New York, will get a two-month reprieve.
This was after a New York court judge, Joanna Seybert, approved a delay that Blackman’s lawyer asked for.
His lawyer, John Bergendahl, in a motion to adjourn sentencing pointed out that his client was set to be sentenced on March 24, 2017.
However, the lawyer said that he is currently scheduled to begin trial in the Eastern District of Kentucky on March 21, 2017, in the matter of United States v. Sonia Castellon.
Castellon is facing charges in a racket to dispense oxycodone, a highly addictive drug that can only be prescribed. The lawyer said that prosecutors have no objections.
The court approved the new sentencing date to April 25, 2017.
Blackman, who is facing jail time in New York for illegally prescribing drugs for hundreds of persons while practising in that US state, is currently being held in custody at Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn.
Blackman, who served under the Desmond Hoyte-led People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) administration, had signalled his intentions back in August to change his plea on charges relating to the dealing of drugs.
In court documents filed in a New York court, Blackman, who was arrested last year February, as he was about to board a JFK airport flight to Guyana, said that he had managed to reach a plea agreement with the US prosecutors.
The doctor was arrested while on his way to Guyana after being named as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
Federal authorities took the 69-year-old doctor into custody after they ordered a Guyana-bound jet, taxiing for takeoff, to return to an airport terminal.
Prior to his arrest, investigators had the doctor and his Brooklyn office under surveillance for weeks.
The David Granger administration subsequently named Dr. Carl ‘Max’ Hanoman as the new GPHC Chairman.
Prosecutors said that Blackman had illegally prescribed vast amounts of painkiller drugs in what has been described as a “drug-dealing enterprise spanning three States.”
According to court documents, Judge Joanna Seybert, in allowing the application for the doctor to change his plea, also agreed for him to cancel a status hearing on the case, which was scheduled for yesterday.
Blackman and his 31-year-old assistant, Eva Torres, of the Bronx, were indicted on two counts: conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and distribution of a controlled substance.
Prosecutors had signalled intentions to seize Blackman’s assets that would have come from the illegal activities.
There were reports that he prescribed oxycodone to some patients he hadn’t seen, which was especially troubling, since the addictive drug could cause life-threatening breathing problems during the first 72 hours of treatment and anytime the dose is increased.
He was also accused of failing to declare more than US$30,000 which he carrying at the time of his arrest on his way to Guyana in February.
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.
US Magistrate Anne Shields had ordered Dr. Blackman held as a flight risk, pending future hearings. Until his arrest, Dr. Blackman had practised 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, New York.
Blackman’s arrest, at the time, was the latest in a string of cases involving Long Island doctors charged with illegally doling out highly addictive prescription painkillers.
In Blackman’s case, Torres was stopped and searched at Kennedy Airport in December 2015, returning from visiting him 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 his assistant was arrested at her Bronx home, 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.
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