Politics

EXCLUSIVE: New York Dem’s Family Firm Gets Opioid Crisis Contract Despite Drug Crime History

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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New York Democrat Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi’s own district hired him to pursue a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers — a case that could net his firm millions of dollars.

Oneida County’s decision is remarkable given both Brindisi’s position within the state government and the firm’s history with drug crimes. Brindisi’s father, Louis Brindisi, was charged in 1990 with using the firm to mastermind the local cocaine trade. He pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in 1991, and the trafficking charges were dropped. Brindisi continues to deny any involvement in the drug trade. Prosecutors in an unrelated murder trial also claimed Louis was involved with the mob and helped a pair of assassins target another man in 1976.

Louis’ son has since become a state Assemblyman and joined the family firm, rounding out the outfit’s current title to Brindisi, Murad, Brindisi & Perlman. Local governments have twice hired the firm to investigate the opioid crisis with the goal of suing pharmaceutical manufacturers. Brindisi hopes to join the U.S. House of Representatives November 2018, running against incumbent Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney.

Tenney claims firms like his are only profiting from the epidemic, while Brindisi touts fighting the opioid crisis as a central point of his campaign. Oneida hired Brindisi’s law firm alongside two others, Cherundolo Law Firm and attorney Robert Julian. Oneida isn’t the only municipality to offer taxpayer funds for the trio to investigate the opioid crisis. The Village of Herkimer, which lies just outside of Brindisi’s assembly district, hired the same firms November 2017.

“Law firms engaged in representing taxpayer interests against opioid manufacturers and distributors should not be able to profit off the backs of vulnerable individuals in recovery,” Tenney said in a statement. “That’s why I’m calling on law firms to provide representation pro bono and defer all legal fees from any settlement to efforts combating the opioid epidemic.”

Herkimer and Oneida are among dozens of jurisdictions nationwide that have pursued lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers for their part in the current epidemic — including counties in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin and many others. The lawsuits accuse companies — like Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Insys Therapeutics — of false advertising and encouraging doctors to over-prescribe medication to get patients addicted.

Oneida County counted 166 drug overdose deaths between 2013 and 2016, tracing 56 to heroin, 26 to fentanyl, 24 to both heroin and fentanyl, and 30 to other opioids.

Many critique the hiring of an elected official’s firm is uncommon, particularly when the firm has a history with drug crime, while lawsuits on these grounds are the norm.

“This is part of a pattern of corruption we’ve seen with Albany politician Anthony Brindisi,” the National Republican Congressional Committee told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “His involvement in a scheme to profit off the opioid epidemic is just the latest disturbing revelation.”

Brindisi’s contract with the county stipulates none of the firms will receive payment until the county receives an “acceptable” recovery, according to the Observer-Dispatch. It’s likely there will be a payout, with so many jurisdictions filing and with the Justice Department endorsing their lawsuits.

The three firms will split 40 percent of the proceeds if Oneida files a lawsuit and it is successful. New York City’s similar lawsuit demands a payout of $500 million.

Brandisi’s office did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment in time for publication.

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