Doctor convicted in opioid overdose deaths dies of COVID-19 in prison

Local News
dr stan li.jpeg

Pictured: Dr. Stan Li

NEW YORK — Dr. Stan Li, a New Jersey anesthesiologist convicted in 2014 of selling prescription opioids to addicts out of a basement clinic in Flushing, Queens, died in New York State prison April 26 of COVID-19, PIX11 learned.

He’d been convicted of killing at least two of his patients with the drug sales, and tied to at least 14 other overdose deaths.

One of the convictions involved the death of Nicholas Rappold, 21, of Flushing on Sept. 14, 2010.

“He died in his car alone,” his mother, Margaret Rappold, told PIX11 Monday night. “He was slumped over. There was a ticket on his car.”

Despite the pain of losing her youngest son, Rappold said of Dr. Li’s COVID death, “No one deserves that ending. He was in prison, but he didn’t deserve to die like that.”

The news of Li’s April death at Mount Vernon Hospital in Westchester County shocked the staff at the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan, who secured two manslaughter convictions against Li in 2014, along with guilty verdicts for selling the painkillers.

Spokesperson Kati Cornell told PIX11, “We learned today of the death of Dr. Stan Li while he was serving a prison sentence for manslaughter. While we don’t know the circumstances, we are sorry to hear of his passing.”

Investigators had videotaped Li in 2011 showing up at the basement clinic on 41st Road in Flushing every Saturday, with lines winding around the block waiting to buy the highly-addictive opioids.

Trial testimony indicated Li made an average of $14,000 in cash every Saturday for the sales and made weekly deposits to his bank.

Two of the people videotaped on line on June 11, 2011 were David Laffer and his wife, Melinda Brady.

Eight days after they were captured on video in Flushing, Laffer killed four people inside a Medford, Long Island pharmacy on Father’s Day 2011 during a desperate bid to steal oxycodone pills. The U.S. Army veteran is now serving life in prison.

Li was arrested in 2011 and later sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison in December 2014. He was sent to Fishkill Correctional Facility in early 2015.

Li’s college-age daughter, Susan, had testified before a New York State Senate Committee in the fall this year about her father’s prison death from COVID, without mentioning his first name or title or what he was convicted of. She was a well-spoken advocate for a group called RAPP, which stands for Release Aging People in Prison.

“I found out my dad was having symptoms on the phone on the day of my 19th birthday,” Li testified in September.

“He told me about friend after friend who had been coughing,” she said.

“He was at Fishkill,” she added, where there were “five confirmed deaths and 113 cases” at the time.

Soon after, Dr. Li was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“Two weeks later, at 66 years old, he was dead,” Susan Li testified. “I watched my father laid to rest over a video call.”

“Is my father not human and was his life not precious?” she asked the committee.

The former prosecutor who tried the case against Dr. Stan Li has recently completed a book about the trial and the addicts who died after buying Li’s pills.

When PIX11 reached Charlotte Bismuth, she sent us a statement:

“Dr. Li betrayed his patients, his medical oath and society when he sold prescriptions for cash. Two young men lost their lives because of his greed. But Dr. Li was sentenced to prison–not death. COVID short-circuited justice and I would never wish a lonely, painful death on anyone.”

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