Supporters of Dr. Michael Belfiore, whose Merrick medical practice closed last month after he was convicted on federal criminal charges, are raising funds online for him to appeal his conviction.
Belfiore’s supporters have said online and to the Herald that he was unfairly prosecuted, and that the two overdose deaths he was convicted of causing were not his fault.
Federal prosecutors have said Belfiore was acting as a “drug dealer” when he wrote oxycodone prescriptions for John Ubaghs, of Baldwin, and Edward Martin, of East Rockaway, both of whom died of overdoses.
The Gofundme page, created by Dana Conte on behalf of Belfiore’s brother, Joseph Belfiore, states, “Dr. Belfiore needs our help!” and describes him as “an extremely knowledgeable and caring doctor, who has been known to treat and cure thousands of patients.”
The page describes Belfiore as falling upon “hard times,” “as we all do,” but does not indicate his conviction, or the fact that he is in prison.
“We need to do whatever it takes to help Dr. Belfiore save his practice,” the page reads. “In his brief absence thus far, thousands of us patients are suffering tremendously with him.”
The online campaign had raised almost $7,500 as of July 9.
Meanwhile, Belfiore, who is in federal custody pending his sentencing in October, has fired his defense attorney, and is expected to appeal his conviction with new representation.
Tom Liotti, of Garden City, represented Belfiore throughout the case, arguing that pharmaceutical companies — Purdue Pharma, in particular — and their misleading marketing campaigns were to blame rather than doctors for opioid abuse.
After Belfiore’s conviction on May 23, Liotti said that he thought he had won the case, and started preparing a Rule 29 motion to have the verdict thrown out.
Liotti was briefly hospitalized for minor surgery last month, and in an interview last week, he said that the amount of work he put into Belfiore’s case contributed to recent health issues.
Liotti added that he was blindsided by Belfiore’s decision to hire new counsel.
“I think, frankly, it’s not a move I agree with at all,” Liotti said, “because our best bet now is this Rule 29 motion I prepared for him.”
Calling legal issues he found with the prosecution’s case “very important and significant,” Liotti said that Belfiore’s case could end up in higher courts.
“If it’s not otherwise dismissed, there’s a good chance at the Second Circuit, and it could go to the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said.
Liotti’s motion is now in the hands of Belfiore’s new attorney, Bruce Barket, of Barket Marion Epstein & Kearon, LLP. Barket has extensive criminal defense experience, including securing the release of Long Island’s Amy Fisher after she was convicted of shooting the wife of her lover. He could not be reached for comment by press time.