BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - - One week after the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team exposed Anthony Pignataro -- the West Seneca doctor who lost his license, poisoned his wife and had secretly re-entered the health care field -- legal analysts said Monday that Pignataro could face jail time if prosecutors are able to prove his actions amount to criminal behavior.
“If he's holding himself out to the public as a licensed medical professional, then he is fraudulently advertising his services when he's not a licensed medical professional,” said Florina Altshiler, a 7 Eyewitness News legal analyst who works for the Russo Toner law firm in Buffalo.
Public outrage has been swift since the I-Team revealed that Pignataro was recently portraying himself as a doctor online despite the surrender of his medical license for the death of a patient in 1997.
“Send him back to prison,” one viewer commented on Facebook.
Said another: “He needs to be arrested and prosecuted.”
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn and the State Education Department’s Office of Professional Discipline are both investigating Pignataro, and while they aren't saying much, Altshiler said Pignataro could face a charge of false advertising for the way he posed under a new name -- Doctor Tony Haute -- while soliciting customers for his skin care business.
Pignataro was advertising a service called “Plasma Protocol” that involved the extraction of blood, but he said he does not need a license because customers would be doing the procedure to themselves.
“It has nothing to do with the practice of medicine,” Pignataro said last week in a phone call to 7 Eyewitness News.
But if authorities can prove otherwise -- and this would be more difficult -- Pignataro could face not only a misdemeanor charge for false advertising, but felony charges of unlicensed practice -- meaning he could go to jail for for one to four years for each patient authorities can prove he treated.
“He would be looking at something on the higher end of that span, probably closer to four years, given his prior criminal history,” Altshiler said.
Pignataro has not been charged with any crime for his recent actions, but prosecutors say they are taking the matter seriously. He is a two-time felon for charges relating to medical malpractice in the 1990s and was also jailed for 12 years for poisoning his wife with arsenic.
Meanwhile, Pignataro's website has been removed from the internet.