Pill-Happy NY Doc Denies Selling Scrips
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The anesthesiologist who prescribed painkillers to Long Island pharmacy gunman David Laffer pleaded not guilty Monday to selling scrips to addicts and drug dealers. Prosecutors say Dr. Stan Xuhui Li, 57—who makes $400,000 a year as an anesthesiologist at a New Jersey hospital—wrote over 17,000 prescriptions, mostly for opioid painkillers, in the last 2½ years at the Flushing clinic he operated on weekends. One of Li’s clinic visitors was Michael Cornetta, 40, an addict who survived two overdoses before he finally died while chewing on a fentanyl patch. All the current charges relate to Cornetta—Li's charged with 15 counts of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance and five counts of reckless endangerment—but prosecutors say more may follow. Li’s defense attorney, Aaron Wallenstein, says Li stopped prescribing drugs to Cornetta once he realized Cornetta was an addict. But prosecutors disagree: Li’s behavior is “just another form of drug dealing,” says Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridge Brennan. Li wasn't charged with selling illegal prescriptions to Laffer, a regular patient of his since 2009, who investigators say obtained hydrocodone at the clinic a month before he executed four people in a Long Island pharmacy as he tried to rob the store of its painkillers. (Laffer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month.) Prosecutors say Li saw up to 120 people per day at his Queens clinic and charged each up to $150, billing Medicare and Medicaid at the same time.