Federal authorities arrested a Long Island doctor late Sunday at Kennedy Airport they suspect illegally prescribed vast amounts of oxycodone — 365,000 pills in 2015 — in a drug-dealing enterprise spanning three states.
Agents took Noel Blackman, 68, into custody after they ordered a Guyana-bound jet taxiing for take off with Blackman aboard to return to an airport terminal.
Blackman — under investigation for several weeks — was intent on permanently leaving the United States, according to a tip agents received before they headed him off at the airport. After the plane returned to the terminal at about midnight Sunday, Blackman was arrested and later charged with conspiracy to distribute the narcotic.
Federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations also found $30,000 in cash stashed in his luggage, officials said.
According to Blackman’s prescription records checked by federal authorities, the 365,000 oxycodone pills came from 2,487 prescriptions — a marked increase from the 114 he wrote for 3,800 pills in 2014 and 63 written in 2013 for 2,100 pills.
Blackman, who had offices in Franklin Square, in Elmhurst, Queens, and in Brooklyn, was arraigned late Monday in Central Islip federal court on the charge of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. U.S. Magistrate Anne Shields ordered Blackman held as a flight risk, pending future hearings. Black 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. 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. She also was not required to enter a plea, but was released on $50,000 bond.
Torres’ attorney, Tracy Gaffey, and King each declined to comment.
Until his arrest, 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.
He has been the minister of health in his native Guyana. In addition to his medical practice in the United States, Blackman also is currently the executive dean of academic affairs at the medical school at Georgetown American University in Guyana. Avis Capepula, a spokeswoman for the medical school in the United States, said she was unfamiliar with Blackman’s case.
Blackman’s arrest is the latest in a string of cases involving Long Island doctors charged with illegally doling out highly addictive prescription painkillers.
The severity of Long Island’s pill problem was underscored on Father’s Day 2011 when four people were shot and killed by opiate addict David Laffer as he robbed a Medford pharmacy looking for painkillers.
Since the killings, an intensified crackdown by officials has led to 160 prosecutions, including that of 18 health care professionals — doctors, nurses and pharmacists, Robert Capers, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, has said.
In Blackman’s case, Torres was stopped and searched at Kennedy Airport in December returning from visiting Blackman in Guyana with more than 40 oxycodone prescriptions signed by Blackman for patients, according to court papers. The papers do not say why Torres was stopped.
Agents checking the names of those for whom 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 Blackman would write oxycodone prescriptions without examining the recipients, the court papers said.
Torres said Blackman was paid $300 for each of those prescriptions, the papers said.
After he was arrested at the airport, 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 Blackman admitted to any wrongdoing.
An agent, in reviewing the conversation, described what he considered Blackman’s intentions, according to court papers
“This volume of patients is consistent with a doctor’s participation in a conspiracy to illegally distribute oxycodone and not with a legitimate pain management practice.”