Dr. George Blatti allegedly ignored repeated warnings and prescribed massive quantities of opioids and other drugs that killed five patients and endangered lives of six others
Case marks first doctor charged with depraved indifference murder for prescribing abuses in New York
New charges will be consolidated with and supersede 2019 indictment for prescription-related offenses
MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan announced today that a Nassau County doctor has been arraigned on five counts of murder for prescription practices that led to the death of five patients between 2016 and 2018.
Prosecutors believe this is the first time a doctor has been charged under New York State law with murder in the second degree under the theory of depraved indifference to human life.
George Blatti, 75, was arraigned today before Judge Fran Ricigliano on five counts of murder in the second degree (an A-I) felony and 11 counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree (a D felony). The defendant 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 underlying conduct, superseding the most serious charges.
“This doctor’s prescription pad was as lethal as any murder weapon,” DA 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. 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 said, “Today’s Grand Jury Indictment of Dr. George Blatti on five counts of Murder Second Degree begins a historic chapter in the ability to directly connect his pill pushing to the deaths of five people. 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. I congratulate the investigators of the NCPD Asset Forfeiture Unit, the District Attorney’s Office and the DEA for their dedication and hard work which enabled Defendant Blatti to be brought to justice.”
“This is a tragic story of lives lost at the hands of someone entrusted to save lives,” DEA SAC Ray Donovan said. “This defendant’s alleged conduct was unconscionable. Our fight against the opioid epidemic continues, as evident in this case. Together with our law enforcement partners we will continue to pursue those who are responsible for fueling opioid abuse and addiction and hold them accountable. This prosecution is one of the many examples of our tremendous partnership with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, and this investigation should serve as a warning to those who have been charged with public trust and the great responsibility of prescribing controlled substances.”
DA Singas said that the Nassau County Police Department’s Asset Forfeiture and Intelligence Unit began an investigation into several opioid overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, in August 2018. That investigation revealed that certain individuals had an inordinate number of prescriptions for opioids written by the same physician, Dr. George Blatti. At that time, NCPD began working jointly with members of the DEA’s Long Island District Office (LIDO) Tactical Diversion Squad (TDS).
Blatti, a general practitioner originally licensed to practice medicine in 1976, had no specialized training or accreditation in pain management. For a time, he maintained a makeshift office in a Franklin Square storefront that was formerly a Radio Shack, with a Radio Shack sign and merchandise racks on the walls.
The original indictment alleges that Blatti met customers at his Franklin Square office through 2019, and after he lost access to that space, 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.
The grand jury charged that patients, who were addicted to opioids, went to Blatti with their requests for controlled medications and the defendant allegedly prescribed drugs with no medical history review or exam. He billed insurance and accepted cash. In some cases, he allegedly prescribed opioid painkillers at patients’ request to individuals he had never met or spoken to. Blatti 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 which is generally required, and provides for greater oversight.
The defendant 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 (a C felony), six counts of forgery in the second degree (a D felony), two counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree (a D felony), 22 counts of criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions in the fourth degree (an A misdemeanor) and two counts of reckless endangerment in the second degree (an A misdemeanor).
For details on the October 2019 indictment see the press release here.
The investigation into the defendant’s conduct continued, assisted by the cooperation of several victims’ family members, and uncovered even more egregious abuse and an unconscionable, depraved disregard for human life. Investigators learned that Dr. Blatti had many reasons to know and appreciate the deadly danger in which his actions placed his patients, and that he was aware through his own inquiries that several had died. The indictment alleges that Blatti was undeterred by these deaths, as well as the pleas- and even threats- from patients’ family members demanding he stop fueling their loved ones’ addictions. He allegedly ignored documented overdoses and illicit drug use documented in his patients’ medical records; disregarded stacks of warnings from pharmacies, insurers and Medicaid about excessive opioid prescriptions, and continued to prescribe foreseeably deadly quantities and reckless, toxic combinations of controlled medications to visibly addicted patients even after he was interviewed by the NY Office of Professional Medical Conduct in 2017. Dr. Blatti allegedly even refused at least three patients’ pleas to stop opioid use, prescribing them more painkillers instead of helping them fight their addictions. As a result, NCDA presented the case to a grand jury, which returned a true bill indicting the defendant for five counts of murder in the second degree.
According to the superseding indictment, Geraldine Sabatasso began seeing Blatti in 2007 for acute pain following an earlier neck surgery. According to records, Blatti was aware that his patient smoked and suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) dating back to 2008. Beginning in 2010, the defendant allegedly prescribed Sabatasso opioids and continued to prescribe opioids until her death. In February 2016, the victim fell and complained of dizziness and had difficulty walking a straight line, and on March 15, 2016, she complained of shortness of breath and feeling weak-- clear signs of opioid addiction. Despite presenting these serious symptoms, Blatti prescribed more clonazepam and oxycodone and tragically, Ms. Sabatasso died seven days later at the age of 50 of acute oxycodone intoxication on March 22, 2016. It is well established that this combination of opioids and benzodiazepines can have potentially fatal consequences for people with decreased breathing capacity.
Duration of Opioid Treatment:
Oxycodone HCL 30 mg: 2,820
Clonazepam 2 mg: 1,410
Victim Michael Kinzer, an electrician from Valley Stream, began seeing Dr. Blatti in 2013. The patient was a smoker who suffered from back pain, asthma and COPD. During an October 21, 2016 visit, Dr. Blatti allegedly prescribed 90 morphine and 90 clonazepam. On October 29, 2016, Kinzer was hospitalized for an overdose. He subsequently developed pneumonia and Dr. Blatti allegedly spoke to staff at the hospital about the patient’s condition. The defendant then allegedly saw Kinzer on November 15 and prescribed 20 alprazolam and 15 oxycontin. Notably, this is the first time that Blatti prescribed oxycontin to this patient. The combination of these drugs, especially for someone with decreased breathing capacity, can be fatal. Kinzer died two days after his visit to the doctor at age 44.
Duration of Opioid Treatment:
5 mo. 20 days
Morphine Sulfate 60 mg: 540
Clonazepam 2 mg: 450
Alprazolam 2 mg: 20
Oxycontin 60 mg: 14
Patient Robert Mielinis, 55, saw Dr. Blatti for approximately eight years. On January 10, 2017, Mielinis received three prescriptions: 90 oxycodone 15mg; 270 oxycodone 30mg and 240 alprazolam. The victim died 11 days of mixed drug toxicity 11 days later. The victim had lost at least 40 pounds in the last months of his life and was a smoker with a history of serious breathing problems. Investigators learned that Blatti was informed by a relative of Mielinis that the patient was addicted and possibly selling prescriptions. The relative demanded that Dr. Blatti stop prescribing to Mielinis with the belief that the opioids may kill the patient, but the defendant allegedly maintained that it was not his business. Blatti also received repeated notices from insurers warning that he was overprescribing to Mielinis. An insurer also allegedly informed Blatti that the patient had overdosed due to opioid abuse and was at risk for another overdose. The defendant allegedly continued to prescribe the drugs despite these explicit, repeated, and increasingly dire warnings. Prescription records indicate that Mielinis received approximately forty-nine prescriptions from Blatti over a seven-month period for 2,120 alprazolam in fifteen prescriptions, 3,830 oxycodone from twenty-one prescriptions, and 1,036 Percocet over eight prescriptions. At one point, Blatti allegedly prescribed Mr. Mielinis nine times the recommended daily maximum dose of opioid painkillers.
Duration of Opioid Treatment:
2 yrs. 6 mos.
Oxycodone HCL 30 mg: 6,660
Alprazolam 2 mg: 4,070
Zolpidem 10 mg: 540
Oxycodone HCL 15 mg: 530
Sean Quigley, 31, a volunteer firefighter from Floral Park, struggled with opioid abuse dating back to at least 2008. Though Blatti was allegedly aware of the victim’s addiction, and had treated him with suboxone for five years, he later allegedly fed that addiction, prescribing large quantities of oxycodone following a knee injury in 2014 until his death. Several urine tests indicated the presence of unprescribed benzodiazepines and alcohol; a red flag for abuse accompanied by a significant risk of death. Nonetheless, the defendant allegedly continued to prescribe high doses of narcotics, totaling more than 7,000 oxycodone 30 mg. pills and 3,600 clonazepam 2 mg. pills over 40 months. Quigley struggled with alcohol abuse, smoked, and suffered from COPD. In 2017, he was suffering from liver failure and retaining water. Quigley had lost approximately 50 lbs. Blatti saw him in the months of June, July, August, September, October and November. On November 21, 2017, despite clear signs of a failing liver, for which he prescribed a diuretic and potassium supplement, Blatti allegedly prescribed 180 oxycodone pills. Given his alleged awareness of Quigley’s liver failure, which significantly increases the risk of overdose, the continued prescription of opioids showed depraved indifference to his life. Quigley died 11 days later, on December 2, 2017, from acute intoxication of oxycodone and oxymorphone.
Duration of Opioid Treatment:
3 years, 4 mos.
Oxycodone HCL 30 mg: 7,020
Clonazepam 2 mg: 3,600
Diane Woodring, 53, from Port Washington, died on September 11, 2018 of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, alprazolam, mirtazapine and valproic acid. These medications were prescribed by Dr. Blatti. Additional details have been omitted in deference to the family’s request for privacy.
Duration of Opioid Treatment:
4 years, 1 mo.
Oxycodone HCL 30 mg: 9,360
Alprazolam 2 mg: 6,810
Zolpidem 10 mg: 1,170
The grand jury further indicted Blatti on 11 counts of reckless endangerment in the first degree, determining that Blatti’s prescribing practices were allegedly depraved. The 11 counts relate to the five deceased patients and six living patients.
The defendant surrendered this morning to members of the Nassau County Police Department.
DA Singas added, “In my nearly 30-year career as a prosecutor, I have never seen a case of such outrageous disregard for human life by a physician. This doctor allegedly ignored warning after warning from visibly addicted patients and continued to prescribe the dangerous drugs that cost his patients their lives. I am grateful to the brave family members of these victims who provided invaluable assistance to our investigation, and my heart goes out to them as they continue to grieve the loss of their loved ones.”
The Long Island District Office Tactical Diversion Squad includes agents and officers of the DEA, NCPD, Rockville Centre Police Department, Suffolk County Police Department, Port Washington Police Department and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services – OIG.
Neither Radio Shack or Dunkin’ Donuts are alleged to have known or participated in any of the alleged wrongdoing by the defendant.
The defendant voluntarily surrendered his medical license to New York State authorities on June 24, 2019 after this investigation began.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Melissa Scannell of DA Singas’ Rackets and Enterprise Crime Bureau and Senior Litigation Counsel Stefanie Palma of the Homicide Bureau are prosecuting this case. The defendant is represented by Jeff Groder, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.