9/11 forensic dentist sentenced in drug case

A dentist who used dental records to identify victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was sentenced to five years’ probation for forging painkiller prescriptions for his girlfriend.

Jeffrey Burkes, 59, who pleaded guilty in November to criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance, was also ordered to do 150 hours of community service and to continue psychiatric treatment. He admitted he gave Shari Perl Herman, 42, illegal prescriptions for Vicodin and other drugs.

The judge said that while he ‘never thought jail was appropriate in this case’, he was surprised that the plea deal did not require Burkes to give up his license to practice dentistry.

Assistant District Attorney Rahul Kale said that Burkes will face a hearing later before a state licensing board, which will review his right to practice dental medicine.

Burkes said in a statement that he planned to return to his dental practice, adding: ‘It is what I do best.’

‘I am very, very sorry for what I have done. It was wrong, and it will never happen again,’ he said.

An oral surgeon, Burkes is former chief forensic dental consultant in the city medical examiner’s office.

A spokesman for the office said the dentist went on unpaid leave from that position in November 2006, when he was arrested.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Burkes led a team of volunteer forensic dentists who analysed the dental data of those killed.

Burkes’ lawyer, Maurice Sercarz, said his client deserved the leniency he received.
‘Dr. Burkes has done more good for more people with his licence to practice dentistry over a longer period than anyone I know,’ Sercarz said.

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